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The name saltwater taffy became popular in the late 1800s when legend has it that the stall of a taffy seller by the Atlantic City seaside became flooded with water from the ocean. But, despite today’s taffy not containing any sea water, it does have salt in it. The name stuck and now this treat is a big deal during the summer months when people flock to coastal destinations and bring home sweet souvenirs of their trips. But, did you know it’s still made using the same methods from two centuries ago?

historic saltwater taffy photograph
Notice that the sign says the taffy is never touched by human hands. Via: Bain News Service/Library of Congress

The first taffy to be mentioned in writing was back in 1817. At that time taffy was made using a taffy hook: a large, metal hook mounted to the wall that a warm sugar and molasses mixture would be wrapped around and then pulled off of.

pink saltwater taffy
Via: Food Insider/YouTube

Nowadays we have taffy pulling machines which do all that work for us. However, the basic method for making this chewy treat remains much the same as it was 200 years ago.

defunct taffy hook
Via: Food Insider/YouTube

The taffy base is made from invert sugar, salt, and butter. The mixture is heated up and then cooled slightly before being moved to large metal tables to be worked by hand.

These tables are hollow and are filled with cool water to help the taffy cool at an even rate.

saltwater taffy being made
Via: Food Insider/YouTube

The color and is added on the table and the the candy is stretched into a long snake with the help of machines.

taffy on the tube machine
Via: Food Insider/YouTube

The flavorings aren’t added until the taffy rope is placed on the taffy pulling machine since the action blends the flavors in better than can be done by kneading on the cooling tables.

Later the taffy is run through an extruder machine which ensures that the pieces all come out the same size. The final step is to wrap the taffy in wax paper since it’s extremely sticky.

taffy pulling on a machine
Via: Cory Denton/Flickr

The reason taffy has the unique texture it does is down to the pulling and stretching of the sugary mix. This process adds air to the taffy, giving it the almost-spongey texture that keeps people coming back for more. Even in our world of chocolate confections taffy is a nostalgic treat that many people still enjoy.

Watch the video below to see how saltwater taffy is made at a company that has been producing the candy since 1898.