• Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Dear Hipster:

How do they make the stripes on candy canes? And when was the candy cane invented? And why canes?

— Angie

If I may condense a lot of accessible information into one super nugget of candy-cane errata...

Nobody knows the exact inventor of the candy cane or when it happened. Probably somewhere in Europe about 200 years ago. No one concretely links Swedish polkagris or English rock to candy canes, but both were stripey candy sticks before it was cool. Till about 1900, all candy canes were white. Then, someone figured to slap a ribbon of colored candy on the outside, which turns into stripes as the lump of pure candy gets stretched and twisted. American “stick candy” had been into the swirly look for decades, so it didn’t take much lateral thinking to treat candy canes the same. Up to the mid-20th century, every candy cane had to be bent by hand. A Catholic priest, whose brother-in-law owned Bobs Candy in Albany, Georgia, patented the Keller Machine, which bends the canes on an assembly line, thus guaranteeing Bobs’ hold on the candy-cane market, at least until 2005, when the huge company that bought Bobs moved all the production to Mexico and shuttered the Albany factory, thus putting a handful of locals out of work just in time for Black Friday.

Considering the glorious history of artisan candy-cane production in the U.S., it’s a surprise that there isn’t a thriving niche market. Hammond’s handmade candy canes (Denver, Colorado) still get bent by hand, but, to this date, no hipster has successfully operated a handcrafted, artisan hard-candy shop. This is because hard candy (at one point in time the only kind of candy there was) is the Salisbury steak of the confectionary world, terminally uncool and bereft of contemporary revisioning at the hands of the cutting-edge culinarians who brought us cocktails in Mason jars and pickled everything.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Comments

Sign in to comment