Candy Corn (How Products are Made)
Candy corn are the small pieces of triangular candy made primarily from corn syrup, honey and sugar (it is usually fat-free) and is traditionally colored in a specific pattern of three stripes. It is recognized by the white tip, orange in the center, and yellow at the widest end.
Candy corn has been remarkably popular in America for well over a century. The amount of these sweet kernels consumed in a single year is staggering. One candy company alone estimates it produces 4.3 billion pieces a year and that Americans eat about 20 million lb (9.1 million kg), or about 8.3 billion kernels.
Candy corn is considered a "mellow creme," a candy that has virtually no oils or fats in it but has a marshmallow flavor. It is also of a variety of candies that are made using the process confectioners refer to as starch casting, in which the candy is formed in a machine using cornstarch as the molding agent. This particular kind of cooked candy must set for at least a day before it may be packaged for sale.
Candy corn has been around for over a century. Some believe that it was homemade at one point, but others think that it has largely been mass-produced since its invention in the late nineteenth century. No one is quite sure who invented these little morsels. However, it is believed that Americans knew of the candies in the 1880s. By the turn of the century, the Goelitz Candy Company in Illinois, run by German immigrants, was making significant quantities of the confection.
In the early twentieth century, candy corn became the company's single best seller. Goelitz is now not the sole candy corn producer in the country, nor is it the largest. No matter who makes candy corn, the process has remained largely unchanged. Originally, candy slurry was cooked as a fondant and poured, from large ladles or buckets, into separate triangular-shaped molds. Each color was poured into the mold separately. The colorful kernels were allowed to dry before packaging. Now, however, the process is entirely mechanized.
Major recent changes have included the broadening of the use of candy corn to other times of the year. Thus, these candy kernels take on color combinations suited to the time of year they are slated for consumptioned, pink, and white for Valentine's Day, and green and white for St. Patrick's Day, for example. Green and red candy corn is referred to as reindeer corn and is becoming a popular Christmas treat.
Candy com ingredients vary with the manufacturer. However, the most important ingredients for the production of candy corn include corn syrup and sugar. Gelatin and soy protein are added to produce a firm-bodied candy. Also often used in the production of candy corn is salt, honey, artificial flavors and colors, and a confectioner's glaze of oil and wax that gives the candy a sheen. Cornstarch, essentially a corn flour, is an extremely important part of the molding process as the candy is injected or squirted into molds made of damp cornstarch. However, the cornstarch is simply the molding agent and does not become part of the candy itself.
Image Pop-UpA candy-making machine called a Mogul deposits the slurry in com starch molds. Each colored section of candy com is deposited at different stagesirst, the white tip, then, the orange stripe; and finally, the yellow stripe at the wide end.
The Manufacturing Process
Candy corn is manufactured using a process referred to by confectioners as starch casting. In this process, the shape of a candy or a candy center is formed by making impressions in a powder called cornstarch. The filling of each of these separate impressions is filled with liquid candy. Starch is an effective material because it easily retains specific shapes. Cornstarch also helps to remove moisture from the candy as it dries. Much of the candy making process, including the starch casting, occurs within a special candy-making machine called a Mogul. The candy is made and then must be left to dry. Thus, it is at least a 24-hour process from the beginning to end of the production process. Occasionally, it may be as long as 48 hours, depending on the moisture of the batch of candy and ambient humidity within the factory.
- A stacker puts trays into the Mogul via conveyor belts. The Mogul puts cornstarch into these plastic trays. This cornstarch is specially treated so that it adheres to itself and is conducive to molding. Then a leveler, made of plastic, brushes over the top of the trays and levels off the cornstarch that had been placed within the trays.
- The plastic trays advance to the dye within the Mogul. Here, several hundred triangles leave hundreds of impressions in the cornstarch in these trays. The liquid candy is prepared in three separate colors in three separate candy kitchens in large kettles in which the sugar, corn syrup, salt, honey, soy protein, gelatin, and flavors are beaten together with mixers. This slurry is cooked to specific temperatures and is then delivered to the depositors separately so the colors are not inadvertently mixed.
- Next, the Mogul is ready to deposit liquid candy into each cornstarch impression. Each separate cornstarch impression has a nozzle into which liquid candy is loaded and deposited. Thus, if there are 300 triangular molds, there are 300 nozzles above the tray ready to squirt in the liquid slurry. The candy is deposited in three phases. First, the nozzle injects the white tip into the top end of each triangle. Then, it deposits the center, or orange stripe against the white tip. Finally, the depositor finishes off the candy corn with the yellow stripe at the wide end.
- The filled trays of wet candy corn are now conveyed to the end of the Mogul and automatically stacked. When there are enough trays stacked together, they are moved from the Mogul and sent to the "dry rooms" to set.
- These wet candy corns must have the moisture removed from them in order to be separated easily from the molds. Thus, the trays sit in the dry rooms between 24-36 hours, depending on the batch of candy and the weather or humidity surrounding the factory. The longer the candy sits in these rooms, the drier they become. Moisture levels are tested to ensure the candy corn includes just the right amount of water.
- The candy corn, still in the trays, is conveyed back to the Mogul. This machine then turns the trays completely over, dumping the candy and the cornstarch out of the trays. Then, the candy and the cornstarch are separated from one another. The candy is sent to the next processing point. However, the cornstarch is transferred to a sifter that removes any bits of candy corn, then is sent to the drying drum, which removes the moisture from the starch. The corn starch is sifted a final time, then is sent back to the Mogul for use in molding other candies.
- The candy corn is rather dull-looking and lackluster at this point and must be polished to give it an appealing sheen. The candy corn is conveyed to hollow globeshaped vessels called polishing pans into which confectioner's glaze (made of oil and wax) is added. The candy is then sent to large revolving drums. As the drums revolve, the pieces of candy corn gently rub against each other, so each piece is polished as it tumbles, much like a rock tumbler.
- After the candy is polished to a bright sheen, the candy is ready for packaging. It is removed from the polishing apparatus and sent to the packaging machines, which automatically weigh the candy, put it in bags, seal each bag, and put the candy into cases that may be shipped.
Everyone within a candy company is responsible for quality control. There is, of course, the human eye and human hand that looks at the product after it is dumped from the trays before polishing and discards the misshapen pieces. Next, machinery is meticulously maintained because if one part breaks down, the entire mechanized process is completely set back. The Mogul, a large and complex starch casting machine, receives great care and inspection.
All materials are visually inspected before accepted for production, but they are also examined using microtests by microbiologists within the company. They are carefully checked for dangerous contaminants and health hazards such as E. coli, salmonella, and staph. The liquid candy slurry is also checked for several properties. The color of each of the three candy batches must be just right because batches that are not of the correct color are rejected for depositing within the corn starch molds. The slurry is also checked for density, weight, and viscosity so that the candy moves to the depositor easily, is deposited easily, and will set correctly. Similarly, the melting point of the sugar is monitored. Finally, the moisture of the drying candy corn is carefully monitored so that the candy is neither too hard nor too soft.
There is virtually no unused material or scrap left after the production of candy corn. Most significant, the cornstarch is completely sifted out separately from the product, dried, and sifted again so that it may be quickly reused. Generally, any candy slurries that are not of the correct color are easily corrected. Candy corn that is somehow misshapen or considered inferior may be melted down and reused. Of course, any candy that falls on the floor is never reused.
Where to Learn More
Herman Goelitz, Inc. "Jelly Belly Factory Tour." (2000). http://www.jellybelly.com (December 2000).
Herman Goelitz Inc. "The Goelitz Family: Candy Corn & Jelly Belly." German American Corner (1996-2000). http://www.germanheritage.com/biographies/atol/goelitz.html (December 2000).
Inglis, Margaret. "Candy Corn, Your Friend and Mine." CuisineNet Café (October 22, 1997). (December 2000).
National Confectioners' Association. http://www.candyusa.org (December 2000).
i>Nancy E.V. Bryk