Jawbreakers. The candy industry’s legacy to the dental profession. There probably is not another candy everywhere that has the exceptional hardness of a jawbreaker or possibly as large of a sugar content.
Enough said. Now on to discover the unmitigated joy (and sense of frustration) that comes with the jawbreaker experience.
Ancient Egyptians used honey, sweet fruits, spices, and nuts to prepare their sweets. Sugar was not available in Egypt; the first written record about its availability was found around 500 CE, in India. India passed the practice of creating sugar from the boiled syrup of the sugarcane plant to the Arabs who introduced, around 1100 CE, sugar to Europe. Originally, sugar was considered to be a spice and until the 15th century, was used only medicinally, doled out in minuscule doses, because of its extreme rarity. From the 16th century, due to wide-ranging sugar farming and improved refining procedures, sugar was no longer thought of as such a rare commodity. At this point, crude candies were being made in Europe, but by the end of the 18th century, candy-making machines was producing more complex candies in much larger amounts.
When glucose is cooked at a high temperature, it gets completely crystalized and becomes hard candy. Hard candy was usually sold by the single piece; the storekeeper removed, from a glass case or jar, the desired number of pieces. By the middle of the 18th century, there were almost 400 candy factories making penny candy in the United States.
The jawbreaker rose to prominence due to the efforts of the Ferrari Pan Candy Company in Forest Park, Illinois. Ferrari Pan now specializes in the creation of its original Jaw Breakers, as well as Boston Baked Beans and Red Hots. Although there are many manufacturers of jawbreakers now in the 21st century, such as Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company and the Scones Chocolate Organization, Ferrari Pan is still the most prolific manufacturer of pan candies throughout the world.
Jawbreakers, also known as gob stoppers (from the British slang: gob for the mouth and stopper as in to block an opening), belong to a category of hard candy where each candy, usually around, ranges in size from a tiny 1/4″ ball into a enormous 3-3/8″. The surface, as well as the interior, of a jawbreaker is extremely hard and not intended for anybody with a sensitive mouth.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the hot pan process of candy making. A jawbreaker is made up of sugar, sugar, and more sugar. It takes 14 to 19 days to produce one jawbreaker, from one grain of sugar to the finished product. A batch of jawbreakers tumbles always in enormous spherical copper kettles over a gas fire. The kettles or pans all have a wide mouth or opening.
There are five basic steps used in creating jawbreakers.
Pouring the sugar A panner (the worker who uses the pans or kettles to make candy) pours granulated sugar into a pan while a gas fire preheats the pan. Each grain of sugar will turn into a jawbreaker since the crystallization process proceeds; other grains crystallize around it in a spherical pattern. The panner ladles hot liquid sugar into the pan along its edges. In a seemingly endless endeavor, the panner continues to add extra liquid sugar into the pans at intervals over a time period of 14 to 19 days, with the kettle rotating . Either the panner or another employee creatively examines, at intervals, the jawbreakers to ensure there are no abnormalities in the shape of the candy.
Adding additional components Only the outer layers of most types of jawbreakers have coloring. Only when the jawbreakers have attained almost their finished, target size does the panner add the predetermined color and flavorings to the edge of the pan. As the kettle continues to rotate, all the jawbreakers get evenly”dressed” with color and taste.
Polishing When the jawbreakers have reached their optimal size, after about two weeks, they move from the hot pan into a polishing pan. Hot pans and polishing pans seem very much alike. At this time, the jawbreakers are set to rotate in their polishing pan. Another panner adds food-grade wax into the pan so that each candy gets polished as the pan tumbles. Once polished, the jawbreakers are completed and ready to be packed.
Measuring The final jawbreakers are loaded onto a tilted ramp where the candy colours can be evenly mixed. Small batches of the jawbreakers roll down the ramp and fall into a central chute. Each tray holds only a predetermined weight of the jawbreakers (i.e. 80 oz or 5 pounds.) When that weight is attained, the tray swings out of the way so that the next tray may load. When the top trays reach their weight load, then the bottom trays drop their jawbreakers to the bagging machine.
Bagging a big machine holding a broad spool of thin plastic on a revolving drum is used to mechanically bag the jawbreakers. The machine forms bags of plastic, fills them with jawbreakers, then seals the bags. The filled bags are now in the final phase of production. All that’s left to do is to put these completed bags into packing boxes and away to market they move.
Word of warning: Jawbreakers are intended to be sucked upon, not bitten into, unless you fancy the broken tooth look.
A jawbreaker can be as big as a golf ball or as small as a candy sprinkle.
When a jawbreaker is split open, you will see dozens upon dozens of sugar levels that look like the concentric rings of an old tree viewed in cross-section.
A jawbreaker is not intended for the anxious person who is always in a hurry. It may take hours to adequately consume a jawbreaker. Recall: suck, lick, whatever but do not try to bite through the layers. Jawbreakers are made of crystallized sugar which, at times, can be considered the same tooth-shattering hardness as concrete.
There have been at least two reported events in which a jawbreaker has exploded spontaneously, leaving its customer with severe burns requiring hospitalization. One explosion involved a 9-year-old girl from Florida. She’d abandoned her jawbreaker sitting in direct sunlight and when she took her first lick, the jawbreaker exploded in her face, leaving her with severe burns on many areas of her body. The other explosion took place on the website of the Discovery Channel’s television program MythBusters when a microwave oven was used to exemplify it can cause different layers compressed inside a jawbreaker to heat at different rates and thus exploding the jawbreaker, causing a massive spray of exceedingly hot candy to splatter in a vast area. MythBusters host Adam Savage and another crew member were treated for mild burns.