We all have many fond memories of summers past, and many of these memories can be evoked by a variety of sensory stimulation. The sound of the happy chimes of the ice cream truck, or the heavenly aroma of a freshly opened bottle of suntan lotion can bring you back to a hot summer day, even in the middle of January.
The same can be said about the feeling of sand between your toes, or the sweet taste and texture of saltwater taffy. The sounds and smells of the boardwalk return with each chewy bite. That is probably why saltwater taffy has been a coastal favorite for over 100 years.
Saltwater taffy originated from the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore, specifically Atlantic City, in the 1880s. It is unclear exactly how saltwater taffy got its name. One tale as to how this occurred relates to a taffy maker’s assistant that, out of laziness, used sea water instead of fresh water when making the taffy.
The more popular explanation of the seawater name comes from the candy shop of David Bradley, which was flooded by the Atlantic Ocean during a major storm in 1883. The next day, while Bradley was cleaning up, a young girl came in his shop and asked if he had any taffy for sale. Jokingly he offered her some “saltwater taffy,” which she sampled, then purchased to give to her family and friends. The rest, as they say, is history (at least according to this tale).
Regardless of how the name originated, it was Joseph Fralinger who popularized the candy by boxing and labeling taffy as “saltwater taffy” to sell in Atlantic City.
As all successful new products eventually run into competition, Fralinger’s first major competitor was candymaker Enoch James. By the 1920s, he refined the recipe, making it less sticky and easier to unwrap. He is also credited with cutting the taffy into bite-sized pieces and mechanizing the pulling process.
Before James automated the pulling machines, taffy was pulled and stretched by hand. The taffy pulling causes the candy to become aerated, meaning tiny air bubbles are produced. These air bubbles result in a light, fluffy, and chewy candy.
Saltwater taffy is mainly composed of sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, butter, and a variety of added flavors. Contrary to its name, saltwater taffy does not contain sea water, but it does contain both salt and water.
This New Jersey treat has become a coastal staple, readily available in many New England seacoast communities for tourists and locals alike.
While visiting scenic Rockport, stop in at Tucks Candies, located at 15 Main St. Tucks has been selling fine chocolates and candies since 1929. They offer 20 different flavors of saltwater taffy, including their famous peanut butter taffy, featuring real peanut butter in the center.
If the beaches of Cape Cod are a regular summer excursion for you, then check out Cape Cod Saltwater Taffy, located at 984 Rt. 28 in South Yarmouth. It may be more of a taffy stand than a candy shop, but CC Saltwater Taffy has been specializing in this chewy treat since 1952. They feature over 30 flavors of taffy, and offer onsite viewing of taffy pulling during the summer season.
At nearby Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, you will find The Candy Corner, located at 197 Ocean Blvd. Family owned and operated since 1999, this full service candy shop features over 25 flavors of taffy and is conveniently located on the strip across from Hampton Beach.
If the coast of Maine is your favorite summer stomping ground, then stomp on over to The Goldenrod, located at 2 Railroad Ave, in York Beach, ME. This sweet gem has been a landmark candy and ice cream shop since 1896, famous for its saltwater taffy.
Beautiful Ogunquit, ME, is the home of Perkins Cove Candies, located at 103 Perkins Cove Road, and has been a Maine tradition since 1980. They feature handmade saltwater taffy in all your traditional favorite flavors, with the addition of the Maine staple flavor, blueberry.
Now that some COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, treat yourself to that chewy summer treat that always brings you back to your “happy place.” Keep in mind that some taffy stores may have hour changes or other restrictions due to COVID-19, so it is best to call before you visit.
If you feel that you are still not comfortable traveling by the beach side just yet, no need for disappointment. Many coastal candy shops are offering online ordering, so your favorite old fashioned summer candy can be delivered right to your front door. Just be sure to not get too carried away in your love for sweet summer nostalgia when hitting the “add to cart” button on your computer screen, because I doubt your dentist makes house calls!