The Culture of Food and Drink


Home / World  / History  / How Halloween Surrendered To Sweets: A Long, Old Tale

How Halloween Surrendered To Sweets: A Long, Old Tale

The interior of Shane Confectionery in Philadelphia decorated for Halloween. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Shane Confectionery

The interior of Shane Confectionery in Philadelphia decorated for Halloween. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Shane Confectionery

The original claim to fame

Made using the same method and recipe as Mary Spencer’s original 1806 confection, Gibraltars continue to be a popular item at Salem’s Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sophia Vellotti

Made using the same method and recipe as Mary Spencer’s original 1806 confection, Gibraltars continue to be a popular item at Salem’s Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sophia Vellotti

In 1806, the shop’s founder, Mary Spencer, and her young son were stranded in Salem when their ship from England wrecked en route to Marblehead, Massachusetts. It soon became known that the now-destitute Mrs. Spencer had been a confectioner in England, known for making Gibraltars, a sugar paste candy. Locals pitched in to buy her a barrel of sugar — a costly commodity at the time — to make her confections. She soon set up shop, selling the candies on the steps of the First Church and then, later, by wagon around town.

In 1835 Spencer’s son sold the business to George Pepper, who added the more masculine Black Jack molasses candy to the lineup. The Burkinshaw family purchased the company in the early 20th century, and the fourth generation of the family continues to run the shop today, making candies from original molds and recipes.

Shops like Pepper’s remained unusual in American culture until the mid-19th century, when mechanization made bulk candy manufacturing possible. Up until then, most confections were made at home and, with the exception of caramel, bore little resemblance to what we now call “candy.”



Zester Daily contributor Ramin Ganeshram is a journalist and professional chef trained at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, where she has also worked as a chef instructor. She has won seven Society of Professional Journalist awards and been nominated for the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Bert Greene Award. Ganeshram's books include "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad & Tobago," "America I Am: Pass It Down Cookbook" (with Jeff Henderson) and "Stir It Up." Her book "Future Chefs" won an IACP Cookbook of the year award and she is the ghostwriter of the best selling Sweetie Pies Cookbook. Her book Cooking With Coconut will be out from Workman/Storey in December 2016.

NO COMMENTS

POST A COMMENT