Cool Confectionaries of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, does some very cool things with candies. It specializes in replicated historic candies made from recipes popular in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The confections are sourced from small candymaking companies (including the tiny Historic Division of giant Mars), and from artisanal candymakers using authentic, original recipes.
We talked with founder Susan Benjamin, a former communications strategist, university professor and author of nine books. The research she did for one food-related book sparked her interest in the history of candymaking, which led to her True Treats line of historic candy.
“I was so surprised to learn about the historic connections between candy and our culture,” she said. “You have to really go out looking for opportunities to make or find and buy (historic candies”),” she said.
We tasted some samples that referenced the past, and read the written explanation that came with the packages. For instance, included was a stick of licorice root, and twists of black and red licorice. The text told us that licorice root came to the America with “enslaved people ...who chewed it to ease stomach aches and to clean their teeth. Black licorice became popular in the early 1900s in confections known as ‘penny candy.’”
We also tasted chocolate from a 1772 recipe, and peanut brittle from a recipe created by botanist-inventor George Washington Carver. Both had flavors unlike any modern equivalent.
For information and to order: www.coolconfectionaries.com, (304) 461-4714.