The candy that screams 'Halloween' The treats that first appeared in the 1920s help bring in a Halloween harvest of about $1.8 billion. And thats no corn.

November 01, 1998|By Daniel J. Vargas | Daniel J. Vargas,SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

Time to fess up. Candy corn is one of your guilty pleasures. You love it. Say it - this time with some semblance of sincerity.

You're not alone. The concoction of honey, sugar and corn syrup is a Halloween staple. Americans will buy 20 million pounds of the tri-colored, triangular treat this year. So say the number crunchers at the National Confectioners Association.

"Candy corn sales are kind of a fall thing," said the NCA's Sheila Heath (not to be confused with the candy bar, she added). "There is some red and green candy corn around Christmas time, but it's primarily Halloween."

Candy corn's significance is undisputed, but its history is murky.

Candy historians say it evolved in the 1920s, but they aren't sure who produced the first kernels. Even professors who are experts in food culture couldn't answer the question.

"I sit on the public relations board of the National Confectioners Association, and I've brought it to their attention, but no one knows," said Gwen Stansu, spokeswoman for Favorite Brands International in Chicago. Favorite Brands owns Farley's and Sathers, both of which churn out several billion kernels per year.

"We'll continue our search for an answer. Someday someone will own up to it," she said.

Despite its mysterious origin, candy corn's hues of yellow, orange and white destined it to become Halloween's soul mate.

"With its fall colors, it was a perfect fit," Stansu said. "You can put the candy corn in a bowl on the table and it just says 'Halloween.' The whole experience just caught on."

Some 70-plus years later, it remains a thriving relationship.

Candy corn beats all other nonchocolate treats in sales this time of year, helping make Halloween the biggest candy holiday. Halloween rakes in about $1.8 billion, leaving Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas in a cloud of, um, corn.

Here's the recipe for candy corn, but don't try this at home:

Fifty thousand pounds of corn syrup, honey and sugar are mixed in a giant beater and then heated in bathtub-sized kettles until a creamy syrup, called "slurry," forms.

The slurry is poured into silver vats, into which the yellow and orange colors are added.

The white portion (tip) of the candy corn is mixed in another vat. It receives ingredients to make it firmer, hence, the different taste you may have noticed.

Next step is to add the slurry to triangular-shaped molds made of cornstarch. First, the yellow band is poured, then orange and white. Once done by hand, this process now uses machines.

The kernels dry for 24 to 36 hours. Then they are removed from the molds, dropped into a sifter to shake off any excess cornstarch and get a shiny glaze.

Candy corn is touted as a fat-free snack with 4.4 calories per kernel.

Pub date 11/1/98

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