“No! Not the buttons! Not the gumdrop buttons!” A the gingerbread man in Shrek had a way of putting things so succinctly. And with that I welcome you to the Guide for another in a series of food posts we do here at the Guide where we celebrate all things food. Normally, I would have posted this on Wednesday this year, but I have another special post to do on Wednesday, and I didn’t want to miss my food post for the week. As I started to think about what we could celebrate, I became despondent as I struggled with some of the dates on the food holidays. And that left us with the one candy that haunts our dreams every Christmas. As this February 15th we celebrate National Gumdrop Day.
Gummy type candy has existed for hundreds of years and my experience with gumdrop type candy goes back to my birth. For whatever reason, every wedding, every funeral, and every church event I went to as a child seemed to be littered with gumdrops somewhere amidst the sweets on the table. And of course they look so fun. They are these little dome shaped candies, frequently dipped in sugar, and a gummy texture.
Of course, for the most part, this was the extent of what the candies were. They did not have much to it other than the sugar and the pectin they would add to the candies. Oh, and some food coloring as well. So every time I would go to one of these various functions I would become excited by the candy sprinkled in sugar which came in various different colors. And as I was a child who was allergic to chocolate (an allergy which went away thankfully), I appreciated the texture and flavor of candy as much as anything else. This made gummy candies a lot of fun. But the fun of these candies would last about as long as the flavor of a strip of fruit striped gum. Inevitably a few would be left on my plate.
Which made me very thankful as the years went on that candy makers decided that sticking some flavor in their candy might actually be a good thing. They would add citrus and spices as well as many other flavorings which would vastly improve the taste of these gum drop candies. It’s like the equivalent between eating a Jelly Belly jelly bean versus a regular flavored jelly bean. The vast difference shocks your senses.
As with all of the food holidays we have, we will continue to make sure you are given the full details behind the history of some of our more remarkable dishes. Whether it be priests blazing a trail into the dark forests of Mexico, or goddesses giving peep shows to unsuspecting innkeepers who love to navel gaze, our food holidays make sure to bring you only the complete fake truth behind these foods. We would put our fake research up against anyone else’s as we delve into the vastness of the dark web or use our completely fake time machine. We insist on bringing to you the truth of food as it should have been written. So with this in mind, we bring you the completely fake truth behind the Gumdrop.
The Fake History Of The Gumdrop
Once upon a time, in the land of ancient America, somewhere after the time of the indigenous people and before the time of cotton gins and railroads lived a man in the Appalachian Mountains by the name of Virginus Gumdropicus. Way up in the hills where no one dared to go except people who belonged in the movie Deliverance was a mother and his boy. Every six months, the boy would go down from the hills of Appalachia and down into the town of Roanoke. Of course the boy didn’t realize how dangerous a town called Roanoke could be.
The boy would bring moonshine into the town from his mother’s distillery up in the mountains and sell it to the local markets in exchange for sugar, flour, and other essential supplies to have up in the mountains. But the whiskey business had been going down the last couple of years, and the chickens which usually produced the eggs for their place in the hills wasn’t producing like it could. So this year was going to be different.
His mother instructed him to bring the chickens with him and sell them for what little they could. Maybe someone who had a good rooster could breed the birds and get something useful from them. So Virginicus brought the birds down to the town to sell them when he ran into an old woman in the woods who seemed to have candies all around her place. Virginicus knew the rumors of her being a witch.
She was sitting outside her home with these strange looking candies that were see through and colored. When she saw him she began waiving him over. Virginicus wasn’t sure whether he should come over, but his chickens ran towards all the colored candy and began pecking at it.
“Your chickens seemed to be enamored with my candy, boy. What are you going to do to pay me back for the damage they have done to my candy fence?”
“I don’t know mam. What can I do? I need to go soon and sell my chickens before the market closes this evening. But I promise to come back tomorrow on my way back home to help you fix your fence.”
“On your word of honor or I will curse your and your teeth will turn into beans in your mouth.”
So Virginicus left to sell his chickens and brought money back with him to his mother. Unfortunately he forgot to go back to the witch.
And as he arrived at his mother’s place past the clouds and into the mountains his teeth turned into beans. Virginicus started spitting out white beans from his mouth as he tried to tell her he got the mother for the chickens. His mother screamed at him for bringing back only beans. And told him to not come back until he brought home the money for the chickens.
Virginicus ran and ran until he arrived back at the witches door. He started pounding on it.
“I’m coming. I’m coming,” the old witch said.
Virginicus attempted to speak but only more beans came out from his mouth and grunts.
The witch started to laugh a little as she opened the door. “You forgot your promise and come straight after selling your chickens. Well . . . hmmm.” She laughed some more. “I will give you your teeth back if you help me make the jelly for my candy drops.”
Virginicus nodded his head profusely.
“Good, now lets get some fruit and this heat it up into the pan.”
Virginicus ran to the side of the yard to get some berries off the trees that wrapped around the inside of the witches candy fence. And after an hour or so, he had picked enough to make the jelly.
“Now heat up the fruit, pour in some sugar, and something special from the jar right there. The brown one.”
Virginicus’ mouth dropped when he saw the poison sign on the top of the bottle. He read the word pectin underneath.
The witch laughed again. “I only put that sign on there to keep my son from hogging all my pectin. He lived up in a city in the clouds. But only some magic beanstalk would get you there. In the meantime, whenever he visits his mother he wants to steal all my pectin to make jelly around the house. The great big guy practically robs me out of house and home.”
“Well this recipe for my fence is special. It requires and extra helping of pectin. Pour triple the amount.”
Virginicus did and then kept stirring until it all jelled up into one big hardening mush in the pan. The witch took a long knife and pulled it from the pan. It came out almost like a cone with the top chopped off. The witch then took some of the leftover candy and put it against his gums as Virginicus beans from his mouth all fell out. Virginicus looked up at the witch quizzically.
“Put those on your teeth every day for the next seven days and your teeth will come back in. Just remember, you must keep your word to any woman who might put a curse on you, or your life will become nothing more than a pile of beans. Speaking of which. Did you lose any of the beans from your mouth?”
“No mam,” Virginicus mumbled with his fingers crossed behind his back.
“Good, because I don’t think you want to meet my boy. It might not go well.”
“Yes, mam,” Virginicus said as he slowly backed his way out of the house. He took the little jelly the witch had given them to get his teeth back and ran.
Eventually, Virginicus made it back home to his mom who slapped him something silly until he gave her the money he got for the chickens. His mom then smiled for half a second before slapping his butt for being out all day.
And five days later his teeth finally dropped from his gums through the crazy jelly he put. But a bit of the jelly was left and Virginicus rolled them into drops. Of course something else came up from those beans. But those beans are a whole other story. What we can say is that those drops Virginicus and his mom would sell to Roanoke became so popular they spread throughout the land.
Percy Comes To The Rescue
Of course, as yummy as those gummys were, they were pretty darn hard. And while people liked them, they did not do too well because they would stick in people’s teeth and never come out. This was until Percy Trusdale, from Ohio, decided something must be done.
He went back to his laboratory with his white lab coat and pocket protector at Ohio State and decided something needed to be done to get this gumdrop not to stick in his teeth so badly. His first focus was on the texture of the gumdrop, making it only difficult instead of impossible to get out of your teeth. Next he took to add various different flavors like black licorice, clove, all-spice, cinnamon, spearmint, and peppermint. Eventually his big changes to the gum drop would become the gum drops everyone knows today. (except Dots which are their own unique brand of gumdrop)
Recipe For Gumdrops
So what did you think of the history of the Gumdrop? I always find it fun doing the research behind the history, and creating some of the stories for something as unique as National Gumdrop Day. But as you who follow my food blog posts know, I don’t like to leave you hanging when it comes our favorite foods. I like to give you either a favorite recipe for consumption or a favorite list of places which serve that kind of food. And while I would love to tell you some of the great places which serve gumdrops, I am not sure sending you to my old church would be the best bet. (Although they did have some pretty amazing potlucks.) .
Instead I will provide you with the best gumdrop recipe I could find. As I don’t have a specific variation on a recipe, I will give you the best recipe I know for making gumdrops. It’s fairly straight forward, which I like. Follow this link here to Tablespoon and enjoy making your very own gumdrops. I like it especially when you can have a lot of different extracts on hand to add flavor to your gumdrops. And if you do something unexpected with the colors and the flavors just to mix it up a bit (sometime like Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans), it can be kind of fun as well.
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the Gumdrop history? How would you celebrate National Gumdrop Day? Also, I would love to see how this recipe turned out for you. I just love having so many different flavors and not requiring too many different steps. Candy can be so temperamental at times. It’s nice when a recipe is so straight forward. What are some of your favorite jelly type candies and why? And what do you think of Dots? Just curious.
Like / Follow Me
If you liked this post about National Gumdrop Day, please follow me here at the Guide. We try to do a weekly series on food holidays, and it’s always a lot of fun. Check out some of my previous ones for sure. And follow me here at the Guide to get all of the latest updates on these food holidays. Thank you for stopping by.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life