October 12, 2007

It's October? Time for Candy Corn!

How anyone can say they don't like candy corn is beyond me, aside from the fact that each year retailers probably trot out the same bags of corn as the year before. Does this stuff have an expiration date? You know what they say about Twinkies...

I cannot remember when my love affair with the kernel shaped candy began. Each October brings a new season to eat the stuff, and I make sure to ingest a few pounds over the course of the month. It is the perfect time of year to eat it. From the coloring to the changing seasons, from the approach of Halloween to the proliferation of horror movies, there is just something about October that feels right for eating candy corn.

You may be wondering why it is only October that I eat candy corn. Well, it is the easiest time of year to find the stuff, you can't go by the candy aisle at the local grocery store, Target, or Wal-mart and not see bags and bags piled high just waiting to be devoured. More importantly, as delicious as it is, there is only so much of it that a person can ingest before getting that awful sick stomach feeling (but it is so worth it). October is the month I have chosen to engorge myself, based on the ease of access as well as its association with Halloween.

It is curious to note that Halloween is not the only holiday with candy corn. "Reindeer Corn" is made at Christmas, with the yellow replaced by red and the orange replaced with green. "Cupid Corn" is made at Valentines, with yellow and orange replaced with red and pink. Finally there is "Bunny Corn" made at Easter, with many colors made for each kernel such as yellow, pink, green, blue, purple and white. However, none of them can equal the glee that can be had with the traditional yellow, orange, and white pieces.

Although my enjoyment of candy corn knows few bounds, there are a few. Firstly, it has to be candy corn and not those candy corn flavored pumpkins. You know the things I'm talking about, they are about the size of a sour ball (you do know what a sour ball is, don't you?), orange colored, and look like, duh, a pumpkin. The taste may be approximately the same but the experience is vastly different. You can't just grab a handful and stuff them in your mouth, oh no. At most you can do two or three at a time before it starts to become awkward. Then there is the texture, the size creates much more internal surface area for the soft stuff, and it is a bit much. The traditional kernel is the perfect size, allowing for the right mix of harder outer layer and soft innards. This pumpkin shape also affects the taste. There is a distinctly different taste, likely due to the increased volume beneath the outer layer. In short, pumpkins are no alternative for the kernels. Don't you dare try passing off those pumpkins on me.

Oh yes, that was just the first thing. The other major boundary on my enjoyment of candy corn is the brand. It has to be Brach's. They have been making the confectionary treat for over 100 years. They have the experience and the know how to make it just the right way. Sure, there are very few ingredients, but it is the quality of said ingredients. I have had other brands, and they are never quite right. The others tend to get the texture wrong, they are always a bit grainier, and the taste is also just a bit off. Nothing can match Brach's in the candy corn department.

What is the attraction of candy corn? I really have no idea. The combination of honey and high fructose corn syrup (which has been getting a bad rap in the press of late) and a few other choice ingredients come together in a symphony of flavor and texture. There is no other distinctly Halloween treat that can measure up.

All of us candy corn fans owe a debt of thanks to George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company who created the candy way back in the 1880s. Although, it was not until 1898 when the Goelitz Candy Company (which would eventually become Jelly Belly) began manufacturing the candy and linked it to Halloween. The how and why of this link up is unclear, but it works!

Won't you join me enjoying a bag of candy corn? Remember: One serving of Brach's candy corn (26 pieces) contains 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, and 28 grams of sugar. That's fewer calories than a cup of raisins!

It is still early in the month to prepare for the big day. October 30th is the official candy corn day! Will you be ready?

To help you get ready, here is something you may want to try with a bag of candy corn and the previously mentioned Twinkie. I cannot lay claim to this, but it sounds pretty tasty to me! Take a Twinkie and press pieces of candy corn into it, pointy side into the cake. Create rows of corn. After inserting a good number of the candies and you will have yourself candy corn on the cob! My teeth are aching with anticipation (or is that horror?).


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