Feature Story

Peeps in the Cellar

Names of candy take up a lot of real estate in my tasting notes: Banana Laffy Taffy, Haribo Gold-Bear (the pineapple one), Trolli Peachie O’s.

These brands are relatable and engraved into my taste memory. My friends and I were bribed with them as children; there was a whole holiday devoted to gathering them door to door. And I’m still tempted by racks of them in the checkout line.

And while some may wax poetic with their tasting notes, I like to talk about wine and how it relates to candy: the taste and ageability. Because, at the end of the day, isn’t something like, say, riesling really just somm candy?

In cool climates, such as Germany’s Mosel Valley, riesling exhibits noticeable levels of acidity sometimes balanced with residual sugar making it the Warheads of the wine world.

First imported to the US in 1993, Warheads brought “sour to the people” with ingredients that include sugar, malic acid, citric acid and ascorbic acid. The candy is face scrunching and eye watering at the onset, but mellows to a much milder, balanced flavor.

Nowhere near the pucker-level of Warheads, Sour Skittles stepped onto the scene in 2000. Their catch phrase: “Taste the rainbow.” When eaten by the handful, you get a fizzy sensation from the coating of citric acid, which melts away into a soft lemon-lime and red-fruit flavor more akin to Champagne—intensely fruity without being sweet.

Aging wine changes the color (light to dark for white and dark to light for red); aroma and palate (primary to secondary and tertiary); and texture, mellowing tannins and acid. Some people enjoy their wine young and fresh and others jones for the complexity that comes from a few years in bottle. Just as many wines can benefit from a few years of evolution, so can candy.Aging candy mostly affects its textural component. Naysayers may call this stale, but I think of it as a more toothsome chew, reveling in the unique version of the original product.

Jujubes are perhaps the best, and my favorite, example of how a candy can benefit from some time. If you pick up a fresh pack, you will find that they are not actually produced as hard candy. You can chew them and your bottom teeth will inevitably be glued to your top teeth. Jujubes develop their firmness because, with flavors like violet and lilac (which is orange) in the mix, few people actually buy them. As they stiffen up on the shelves, chewing is no longer an option—allowing the candy to soften in your mouth is the safest route for ingestion.

And while I believe, as a rule of thumb, you should always look for an older, aged-for-you box, there are exceptions, and those are called Peeps—the Beaujolais Nouveau of the candy world.

Just Born, Inc., makes a point to ensure the freshness of their product and believes that their Peeps are best consumed immediately upon release. When I crave a more firm marshmallow, I must resort to aging these candies myself. The preferred method? Poke a hole in the plastic packaging and let the birds get a little air. I might prepare them to age anywhere from a few days to a month, but about a week is the sweet spot for getting that nice chewy outer shell.

This story was featured in W&S October 2017.
illustrations by Vivian Ho