History of Candymaking
If you have a sweet tooth or you just love watching candy get made, you can’t deny that there’s a real charm to candy. For many of use, the obsession with candy starts when we are quite young, whether it was a treat our parents brought home or during candy swaps after Halloween, but there’s no reason to give up on candy as you get older. You might no longer be as infatuated with quantity, but you’ll soon find that with a little bit of searching, it can go up quite higher in quality. Take a look at some candy throughout history, and you’ll soon see that you aren’t the only one with a love for the sweet stuff.
There are some people who believe that the first type of candy was derived from the honeycomb that ancient men and women would eat from beehives. Honey is naturally sweet and people have been eating it in one form or another far longer than bees have been cultivated. All across the ancient world, from the Middle East to Northern Africa to China, people preserved fruits and nuts in honey; not only did this enhance the taste, it could also make the original sweets in question last longer. Fruit could be crystallized or dried in this fashion.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, sugar was very expensive, and thus sweets were a luxury reserved for the wealthy. In particular, white sugar, which had been further refined and processed, was expensive, and there was some indication that hard sugar candy in the form of lozenges existed. By the 1600’s, boiled sweets were popular in England and in North America.
Hard sugar candy really took off, however, during the early part of the 1800’s when sugar beets were discovered to be a cheap provider of sugar. The combination of this discovery along with the advance of mechanized factories brought hard sugar candy into production, though many people still made hard candies such as lemon drops and peppermints at home.
Chocolate, on the other hand, is originally derived from the cacao bean, which was first documented in use in Central America in 1100 BC. Cacao, as the Mesoamericans consumed it, would be very different from the chocolate that was sold in stores today; it was eaten entirely without sugar, often with chili pepper added, and quite bitter to boot. It wasn’t until sugar and milk were added that chocolate became the treat that we recognize.
Whether you are thinking about molding some beautiful chocolate roses for Valentine’s Day or you just feel like making some lemon flavor hard candy, be aware of the tradition that you are carrying on. Explore some of the ancient methods of candymaking and try them yourself!