Sometimes one post leads to another, and Thursday’s Chrystanthemum Teas led to Friday’s Mush Parties, which leads us to Taffy Pulling Parties today. I talked about taffy/toffee in a previous post (see the links below), and in summary, said of the topic:
Toffee is a word that puzzles the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, who say it is of ‘uncertain origin’, and possibly a dialect word. It is sometimes spelled tuffy or toughy, and is a later form of taffy. The first mention, according to the OED which is marvellous but not infallible, is 1817 for taffy and 1825 for toughy (the quotation says is named for its toughness.). Given that words are usually in use for some time before they are enshrined in a quotable publication, it looks like toffee as we know it might be a late seventeenth century idea. The first references to toffee/taffy suggest it was made from treacle or molasses.
“Pulling” candy results in a change in texture, making it more chewy. It can be a laborious process if a significant quantity of candy has been made, and is best performed by two people working together (or one person with a hook or something similar to fix the other end of the candy – but that is not much fun.) Taffy-pulling parties were – and perhaps still are, in some lucky corners of the world) – pleasant informal social events, as suggested in yesterday’s post. If you want to revive the phenomenon, there are some excellent instructions in Household discoveries: an encyclopaedia of practical recipes and processes (New York, 1908)
To Pull Candy.
The best way to pull candy is to grease the hands thoroughly with butter to prevent sticking, or they may be covered with flour. The work should commence as soon as the candy is cool enough to bear the hands. Work with the tips of the fingers until it grows cool. Continue to pull until it is of a light golden color, or white, according to the recipe. Pull smartly, either by the help of another person or over a hook. Finally, draw out in sticks on waxed paper, or other smooth surface, which may be dusted with flour and cut with shears into sticks.
Pulled Taffy for a Taffy Pull.
Either sugar or molasses taffy may be pulled. For sugar taffy, boil together to the soft ball 3 cupfuls of granulated sugar, ½ cupful of vinegar, ½ cupful of water; now add 1 tablespoonful of butter stirred in quickly, and boil until it hardens and becomes brittle in cold water. Add any flavoring extract desired just before removing from the fire. Pour on a buttered platter to cool, turn in the edges as fast as it cools, and when cold enough to handle pull until white and brittle. Or for molasses taffy boil to the soft ball 1 quart of New Orleans molasses, 1 tablespoonful of granulated sugar. Now stir in 2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, ¼ pound of butter, and boil until it becomes hard and brittle in cold water. Just before removing from the fire stir in ¼ teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water and pull. Or boil together to the hard snap 2 cupfuls of brown sugar, 1 cupful of molasses, ½ cupful of water, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar. Just before removing from the fire stir in ½ teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water. Test in cold water. Add flavoring matter and pull until the color becomes a rich gold.
And now for something completely different - taffy from beans! From the book that gave us tomato marshmallows, Candy-Making Revolutionized: Confectionery from Vegetables (New York 1912):
Bean taffy easily takes first rank among all taffies - vegetable or otherwise. The taste is good beyond words, and the consistency is pleasingly "chewy" without being tenacious to the point of teeth pulling!
Lima beans are the best to use as the basis because the skins can easily be removed, but ordinary dried beans may be substituted if care is taken. Cover the beans with cold water, let them stand overnight, and the next morning boil them until soft, and force through a fine sieve to remove all the skins.
Boil together two cupsful of granulated sugar, one-half cupful of water, a tablespoonful of butter, and one-half cupful of the beans, prepared as above. After the mixture has boiled thoroughly, add one cupful of milk. Add the cupful of milk, one-third at a time. Stir the mixture and let it boil a few minutes after each addition of milk. When the thermometer registers two hundred and forty-two degrees, pour the mass onto an oiled marble between oiled candy bars so that it will set about one-quarter inch thick. As with ordinary taffy, cut into pieces of the desired size.
Nut Bean Taffy.
Cut Brazil nuts cross-wise into shavings about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness—about the thickness of the pieces of shaved cocoanut. Spread as many of them as are desired upon oiled marble between oiled candy bars. Pour over the nuts the mass described above. Treat as before.