Jelly Beans

It is impossible to trace the exact origins of the Jelly Bean. Only part of its history remains and the rest are lost in time. However, most experts believe that the Turkish Delight, which is a known Mid-Eastern sweet, is the forerunner of the modern day Jelly Bean and has been around since the Biblical times.

The process known as panning was created in 17th century France and was used to make Jordan Almonds. Panning was done primarily by hand is now automated, but the process has remained essentially unchanged during the last three centuries. In Panning, the process would begin by rocking almonds in a bowl that was filled with syrup and sugar until the almonds were coated with a hard candy shell. The panning process gave birth to shell coating and today, large rotating pans are used to do the heavy work. It is the Master Confectioners that work on the art of adding and mixing the ingredients to create the perfect shell.

In some way, these processes reached the factories in America. The Jelly Beans began production there and soon earned a spot among the many glass 'penny candy' jars that were on display in the candy stores. In general stores, the Jelly Beans were sold by weight and given to the buyers placed in paper bags. The Jelly Beans had an egg-like shape and in the 1930s, they became part of the Easter tradition. They were associated with the Easter Bunny was thought to deliver eggs on Easter as a sign of new life and the start of spring.

Manufacturing a Jelly Bean begins with the making of its center. To do this, ingredients like sugar and corn syrup among others are placed in large boilers which are heated to cook the mixture. The heated mixture is then passed through pipes and travels to the starch casting area. At this point, there are many trays containing impressions of the size and shape of the center of the jellybean that are layered with cornstarch by machines. The mix is then squirted out onto the trays and dried overnight. The next day, the cornstarch layer is removed and the beans are run through a moisture steam bath and are sprayed with sugar. The beans are then set aside for 24 to 48 hours.

What sets the jellybean apart from other candies is its special shell coating. This is achieved by the panning process. The beans are poured into a rotating drum which is called the 'engrossing pan'. While the center of the drum rotates, sugar is gradually added to build up the shell. Then, different colors and flavors are added to the mix to give the jellybean its signature taste and appearance. The shiny look is because of the addition of Confectioner's Glaze which is a process that can take 2 to 4 days. After the beans are 'polished', they are packed and prepared for shipping to candy stores around the world.

There have been two types of jellybeans since 1976. These are the traditional and the gourmet jellybeans. Even though both types take 6 to 10 days to make, the difference is in their recipes that gives each their unique qualities. The traditional jelly bean normally holds its flavor only in the shells. The gourmet varieties however have flavored shells and centers. They also are softer and smaller than the traditional jellybeans.

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About The Author, Michael Russell
Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Candy