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The 11 Sweetest Taffy Shops to Hit This Summer

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What’s a vacation without a sweet treat? You may stick to your diet the rest of the year, but walking down a boardwalk just isn't the same without a few pieces of salt water taffy in your bag.

Bringing back a souvenir box of taffy is almost a given if you are heading to the beach—or down the shore, as they say in New Jersey, where salt water taffy got its start. Many boardwalk candy stores feature a machine going through the mesmerizing display of pulling and twisting the taffy. And though candy stores seem to collect at beach resorts like seagulls, there are a number of taffy stops farther inland as well. Here are some of the most interesting in the country:

1. & 2. FRALINGER'S AND JAMES' // ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY

Atlantic City is the mecca of salt water taffy, as it should be: The stuff was invented there. Fralinger’s and James’ are two venerable taffy establishments that were once rivals, but are now actually owned by the same company. Joseph Fralinger started selling taffy on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1880s and got the idea of selling gift boxes of the sweets as a seaside souvenir—Fralinger’s still sells a vintage-looking taffy box that says “Sea air and sunshine sealed in every box.” Very quickly, Enoch James came along and created a salt water taffy recipe that was slightly less sticky and easier to unwrap. For a quick visual identification of the two brands, Fralinger’s taffy is shaped like a small log, while James’ is shorter and wider, a shape “cut-to-fit-the-mouth,” as they advertise.

3. ROMAN CANDY // NEW ORLEANS

Roman Candy has been selling its candy for more than 100 years not from a storefront, but from a horse-drawn wagon (well, now the company uses a mule to pull that same wagon). Their primary fare is long sticks of taffy that are based on the original family recipe used by Angelina Napoli Cortese in the early 1900s. The taffy is made right in the wagon, and unlike taffy operations that offer dozens of flavors, Roman Candy has just three: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

4. DIAMOND HEAD TAFFY // HONOLULU

If you'd expect that taffy from a tropical paradise would come in tropical flavors, Diamond Head Taffy doesn't disappoint. Among their offerings are flavors like coconut, guava, mango, and li hing mui (dried plum). The company says its product is creamier than other taffies and includes egg whites and Hawaiian sea salt in the mix.

5. LLOYD'S OF AVALON // CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA

Lloyd’s of Avalon is one of the shops that places its hypnotic taffy machine front-and-center in its store window. And though the shop, which first opened in 1934, is a favorite for its selection of taffy and ice cream, it's also popular with the sightseeing crowd—a teenaged Norma Jeane (Baker) Dougherty worked there during her first marriage, a few years before she became Marilyn Monroe.

6. TAFFY TOWN // SALT LAKE CITY

It may not be by the ocean, but Salt Lake City certainly has both salt water and taffy. Taffy Town offers more than 70 flavors of taffy, including some out-of-the-ordinary ones like carrot cake, chicken and waffles, and maple bacon. The company was founded more than a century ago as the Glade Candy Company, but changed its name to Taffy Town “to reflect our total dedication to taffy excellence.”

7. ZENO'S BOARDWALK SWEET SHOP // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

Zeno’s calls its product the World’s Most Famous Taffy and has been selling it on the boardwalk at Daytona Beach since 1948. They say their whipping technique creates a taffy that is light and smooth—and it must be popular, considering they make roughly 400,000 pounds of it a year. Zeno's selection is huge, with more than 100 flavors available (flavor #101 was pineapple upside-down cake).

8. YE OLDE PEPPER CANDY COMPANIE // SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS

The Pepper Candy Companie—the oldest candy company in the United States—traces its roots back to 1806 and a Mrs. Spencer who saved her destitute family by making candy. The company’s name comes not from an ingredient, but from a man named George W. Pepper, another candy maker in Salem who bought the business from Mrs. Spencer’s son. Although taffy was not one of the company’s original sweets, they do sell Wicked Awesome Salt Water Taffy. Their New England-oriented flavors include Cape Cod cranberry, maple syrup, and chocolate mousse.

9. DOLLE'S CANDYLAND // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

Dolle’s was founded in 1926 and moved to its present location on the boardwalk a year later. The company almost lost it all in a hurricane in 1962—the building was destroyed, and one of the only pieces of equipment left was the taffy machine, which dropped through the floor into the sand and had to be pulled out with a crane. It was successfully repaired and is still making taffy today. Dolle’s sells their sweets in a dozen regular flavors and another dozen summer flavors like root beer and piña colada.

10. SHRIVER'S // OCEAN CITY, NEW JERSEY

Shriver’s has been selling salt water taffy at the Jersey Shore since it opened on the boardwalk in Ocean City in 1898. The company sells more than 30 flavors of taffy at its store (which is housed in the oldest building on the boardwalk) and online. During their busy summer season, the store makes more than 2300 pounds (or 100,000 pieces) of taffy each day, with chocolate being far and away their most popular. 

11. MARINI'S // SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA

Marini’s was originally started in 1915 by Victor Marini as a popcorn stand on the boardwalk and soon expanded into salt water taffy and candy apples. Still family-owned and in the hands of its fourth generation of candy makers, Marini's taffy recipe has remained the same since the days Victor was making it. And they still wrap the candies using a cast iron machine bought in the 1920s. That's a lot of history for a bite-sized piece of taffy!

This piece originally ran in 2016.

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Food
Brine Time: The Science Behind Salting Your Thanksgiving Turkey
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At many Thanksgiving tables, the annual roast turkey is just a vehicle for buttery mash and creamy gravy. But for those who prefer their bird be a main course that can stand on its own without accoutrements, brining is an essential prep step—despite the fact that they have to find enough room in their fridges to immerse a 20-pound animal in gallons of salt water for days on end. To legions of brining believers, the resulting moist bird is worth the trouble.

How, exactly, does a salty soak yield juicy meat? And what about all the claims from a contingency of dry brine enthusiasts: Will merely rubbing your bird with salt give better results than a wet plunge? For a look at the science behind each process, we tracked down a couple of experts.

First, it's helpful to know why a cooked turkey might turn out dry to begin with. As David Yanisko, a culinary arts professor at the State University of New York at Cobleskill, tells Mental Floss, "Meat is basically made of bundles of muscle fibers wrapped in more muscle fibers. As they cook, they squeeze together and force moisture out," as if you were wringing a wet sock. Hence the incredibly simple equation: less moisture means more dryness. And since the converse is also true, this is where brining comes in.

Your basic brine consists of salt dissolved in water. How much salt doesn't much matter for the moistening process; its quantity only makes your meat and drippings more or less salty. When you immerse your turkey in brine—Ryan Cox, an animal science professor at the University of Minnesota, quaintly calls it a "pickling cover"—you start a process called diffusion. In diffusion, salt moves from the place of its highest concentration to the place where it's less concentrated: from the brine into the turkey.

Salt is an ionic compound; that is, its sodium molecules have a positive charge and its chloride molecules have a negative charge, but they stick together anyway. As the brine penetrates the bird, those salt molecules meet both positively and negatively charged protein molecules in the meat, causing the meat proteins to scatter. Their rearrangement "makes more space between the muscle fibers," Cox tells Mental Floss. "That gives us a broader, more open sponge for water to move into."

The salt also dissolves some of the proteins, which, according to the book Cook's Science by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, creates "a gel that can hold onto even more water." Juiciness, here we come!

There's a catch, though. Brined turkey may be moist, but it can also taste bland—infusing it with salt water is still introducing, well, water, which is a serious flavor diluter. This is where we cue the dry briners. They claim that using salt without water both adds moisture and enhances flavor: win-win.

Turkey being prepared to cook.
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In dry brining, you rub the surface of the turkey with salt and let it sit in a cold place for a few days. Some salt penetrates the meat as it sits—with both dry and wet brining, Cox says this happens at a rate of about 1 inch per week. But in this process, the salt is effective mostly because of osmosis, and that magic occurs in the oven.

"As the turkey cooks, the [contracting] proteins force the liquid out—what would normally be your pan drippings," Yanisko says. The liquid mixes with the salt, both get absorbed or reabsorbed into the turkey and, just as with wet brining, the salt disperses the proteins to make more room for the liquid. Only, this time the liquid is meat juices instead of water. Moistness and flavor ensue.

Still, Yanisko admits that he personally sticks with wet brining—"It’s tradition!" His recommended ratio of 1-1/2 cups of kosher salt (which has no added iodine to gunk up the taste) to 1 gallon of water gives off pan drippings too salty for gravy, though, so he makes that separately. Cox also prefers wet brining, but he supplements it with the advanced, expert's addition of injecting some of the solution right into the turkey for what he calls "good dispersal." He likes to use 1-1/2 percent of salt per weight of the bird (the ratio of salt to water doesn't matter), which he says won't overpower the delicate turkey flavor.

Both pros also say tossing some sugar into your brine can help balance flavors—but don't bother with other spices. "Salt and sugar are water soluble," Cox says. "Things like pepper are fat soluble so they won't dissolve in water," meaning their taste will be lost.

But no matter which bird or what method you choose, make sure you don't roast past an internal temperature of 165˚F. Because no brine can save an overcooked turkey.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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