For many people, a summer excursion to the seashore isn’t complete without picking up a box or two of sweet, chewy salt water taffy to take home. Taffy shops have been popular attractions along the boardwalk in beach resort towns up and down the East Coast for more than a century. However, many people are under the misconception that salt water taffy is made with seawater, and this is not the case. In this post, we’ll take a look at the origins of this favorite treat, as well as how taffy is actually made.
While it isn’t known for sure who invented taffy, the first large-scale taffy production and marketing operations began in Atlantic City in the late 19th century. The two original taffy entrepreneurs were believed to be Joseph Fralinger, who opened a retail taffy store along the Atlantic City boardwalk, and Enoch James, who developed his own taffy formula in the Midwest and eventually brought it to Atlantic City where he established his own taffy shop. Both stores remain popular Atlantic City attractions to this day.
As far as the name, legend has it that salt water taffy moniker came from an Atlantic City store owner named David Bradley. In 1883, a major storm caused the tide to rise and flood his store, thoroughly soaking his candy supply with Atlantic Ocean water. When a young girl came into the store asking for taffy, Bradley offered her some of what he jokingly called his new salt water taffy. The girl loved the treat so much that she shared some with her friends. It wasn’t long before just about everyone was referring to taffy as salt water taffy.
While there are various taffy-making formulas, the basic ingredients consist of sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, salt, water (but not salt water!), butter, glycerine, food coloring and natural or artificial flavors. Today, taffy is available in a wide range of flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, blue raspberry, licorice, watermelon and many others. If you have a favorite flavor, chances are you can enjoy it in a piece of soft, chewy salt water taffy.
The first step in making taffy is cooking the ingredients in a large copper kettle. The product is then pulled by large machines that stretch the taffy out to aerate it. Aeration captures a large number of tiny bubbles that make the taffy soft and chewy. The taffy is then cut and formed into various shapes and sizes and packaged for shipping.
The beach isn’t the only place where you can purchase salt water taffy these days. You can find it in specialty shops, candy stores, markets and other locations that cater to those who prefer unique, tasty candy products. You will also find a plethora of websites where you can purchase taffy online and have it shipped to your home or place of business.