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Saltwater taffy does not, to the surprise of many, contain saltwater. Rather its name suggests its origins. Generally, most consider this sweet to have come by its name since the first varieties were made on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Some candy lore suggests that saltwater taffy was named so after a flood nearly decimated the shop of David Bradley. When he was cleaning up the next day, a young girl came in asking for taffy. Bradley offered the girl “saltwater taffy” and the name appears to have stuck, just as the candy sticks to the roof of one’s mouth.
Saltwater taffy is essentially taffy, and was being prepared and sold all over the United States in the 1880s. It became especially popular as two candy competitors in Atlantic City began to produce the candy in large quantities for vacationers at the beach.
The two initial companies, James Salt Water Taffy and Fralinger’s still make saltwater taffy, and recipes have only changed slightly since their inception. The most marked change is the variety of flavors now offered. A good vendor may offer as many as fifty different flavors to delight the palate.
Taffy is a very chewy candy, made from sugar and butter. The candy is then pulled to aerate and fluff it up. After extensive pulling and stretching, usually done by machine, the candy is packed in small wrapped rounds. Modern taffy recipes may use corn syrup or glycerin instead of the traditional sugar for a more sticky and stable candy.
Generally, saltwater taffy can be found in little stores in most beach resorts, or coastal haunts on both the East and West Coast of the United States. It can come in diverse flavors, and may be heavily colored with food coloring. Flavor variants include chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, banana, cherry, lemon, peppermint, root beer, and the list continues.
Some flavors are a bit more unusual. Berries and cream, eggnog, caramel cheesecake, or caramel apple are relatively new offerings. Some companies also produce sugar free or low salt varieties for customers with special dietary restrictions.
If you don’t happen to live near a coastal region, one can order saltwater taffy direct from many of the famous vendors, including Fralinger’s and James. Be aware, that Fralinger’s chooses to make their taffy in an oblong log shape, instead of in the traditional round shape.