Salt water taffy has its origin in the 19th century, when production started in the New Jersey area, in Atlantic City. Salt water is not used in the production of this candy, despite its name.
There is a legend concerning the name of the salt water taffy. One of these stories is more popular, even though it’s a bit questionable. It’s about the owner of a candy store, called David Bradly, who had a shop, which was flooded in 1883. Because of that, the salty waters of the Atlantic soaked the taffy that was in stock. At that point, a girl entered the store and asked the owner for some taffy. The owner replied that he only had salt water taffy. The girl didn’t know it was a joke and she was delighted that it was something new. The owner’s mother heard the conversation and she liked the name, so the Salt Water Taffy name stuck. Later, Bradley was known for his advertisement of the taffy candies he sold, on a Boardwalk stand. He asked five cents for six taffy pieces and each candy was put in a piece of paper that is squared.
While the origins of the salt water taffy aren’t well known, it is said that it owes its popularity to the presentation that it is a souvenir that is classic for Atlantic City. The first to sell it and box it as something unique to Atlantic City was Joseph Fralinger. The main competitor for Fralinger was Enoch James, which improved the candy’s recipe. He made it easier to unwrap and he made it less sticky. James was also the one that started selling it in pieces that were bite sized. The pulling process was mechanized by the same Enoch James. The James and Fralinger stores still exist, and they can be found on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.
In 1923, Edmiston John got a trademark over the salt water taffy name. He later asked for royalties from the firms that used this name for their products. Next he was sued for this request and the US Supreme Court ruled that this term was too common for anyone to claim royalties on it.
This candy is being sold these days on Atlantic City’s boardwalk and on other areas from Canada and US.
In the beginning, taffy was made in copper kettles, over coal fires. Then they were put on marble slabs so they could cool down. Finally, they were placed on wall hooks and they were puller. It was called the Taffy Pull and many people considered it enjoyable.
Taffy pulling is done in order to add some air to the sugar confection and to the corn syrup. They used to put up to twenty five pounds of taffy on the hook, pulling from it, so it would stretch. Stretching it would get it to six feet in length. At that point it would be put over the hook again. It was an aeration process, which made the taffy softer, while preventing stickiness.
The composition of the salt water taffy is cornstarch, sugar, glycerine, corn syrup, butter, flavor, salt, water and food coloring. Vanilla, maple, mint extracts and lemon are some of the possible flavors for salt water taffy. Despite people’s belief, salt isn’t used in this candy.