What Is Irish Potato Candy?Stroll into nearly any candy shop in Philadelphia around mid-March and next to the normal chocolate truffles, caramels, and fudge, you might discover stacks of Irish potato sweet, an uniquely Philadelphian treat that was neither invented in Ireland nor is normally made from potato. Like many regional foods, the sweet stimulates a sticky sort of nostalgia. I keep in mind eating Irish potatoes as a kid, states Paul Bugg of Pennsylvania s Stutz Sweet Company, however I ve never ever seen them beyond this location.
Irish potato candies are infant fist-sized soft confections designed to look like small potatoes, with a white center and brown exterior. They re normally made from a coconut-flavored cream filling which is molded into little, slightly oblong potato-sized pieces. Each sweet is then rolled in cinnamon, which provides it the appearance of a filthy, freshly dug-up potato. Often, but not constantly, pine nuts are ingrained atop the sweet to mimic a potato s stem buds or eyes.
We may never understand who created Irish potato candy, says Ryan Berley, co-owner of Philadelphia s 154-year-old Shane Candy Company. But we re pretty sure it was in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and probably by Irish immigrant sweet makers like our shop s founder Edward Shane. Chef Walter Staib who s also a cookbook author, Emmy Acclaimed TV host, and historian states he understands for a fact that they were initially made in Philadelphia by Irish immigrants. He now owns and runs Philly s City Tavern, a replica of a restaurant first set up in 1773. I studied on the restaurant in those early days, Staib states. Starting in the 1800s, Irish indentured servants operated at the restaurant and were making the candy.
A minimum of something is certain: This sweet does not have roots in Ireland. Regina Sexton, Irish food historian and history teacher at the University of Cork, Ireland, had never become aware of the candy, but the cinnamon finishing is an indicator of American tastes, she states. Dr. Chad Ludington, a senior research study fellow in the department, concurs. It sounds like an early-20th century American mixture, he states. I think the Irish themselves would have been more reverent of the potato than to provide a sweet this name.
Inning accordance with every composed and narrative history, the rise of Irish potato candy in Philadelphia likely accompanied a large increase of Irish immigrants. Prior to the Terrific Famine, which occurred between 1845 and 1852, America s Irish population was fairly low. But throughout and after the disaster, Philly s Irish population boomed as households immigrated to the U.S., searching for a more stable future. Irish immigrants were not wholeheartedly invited when they arrived, notes Berley. There was a lot of bias. Part of the threat was that they were going to take away American jobs. However like Shane, they continued and opened services. Today, America s Irish-American neighborhood is often times bigger than the Irish population of Ireland.
A number of modern-day makers recommend the candy, thus numerous things, was created by mishap. Maybe a chocolate maker had remaining coconut filling and didn t desire to toss it. Dave Lamparelli, the founder of Philadelphia sweet business Oh Ryan s, has his own pet theory based on easy economics. Candy makers do well on a great deal of vacations: Valentine s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, he says. But there s a lull in between Valentine s Day and Easter, and perhaps some chocolate maker believed, Oh, here s an easy thing I could make and sell for St. Patrick s Day.
A Philadelphian treat
Notes on American confectionery, among the first books composed on American candy making, was published by Charles C. Huling in 1891. It does not contain a dish for Irish potato candy, though it does contain one for Cocoanut cream as a filling for chocolates. Confectionery books published beyond Philadelphia around the 20th century often consisted of dishes for Cocoanut drops. Jake Friedman's Common-Sense Candy Instructor, dated 1911, contains a recipe for Cream Potatoes: a coconut-flavored buttercream-like filling dipped in cinnamon and decorated with pignoli nuts to appear like a potato s eyes. Eventually a sweet maker must have provided a new name, and it stuck.
By the early 1900s, when Philadelphia was America s sweet capital, between 200 and 300 sweet makers called the city house. Some of those sweet business are still in company today, including Asher s, Whitman s, and Shane Candy Business, which was originally opened in 1863 by German candy make Samuel Herring. The storefront went through numerous owners and offered a range of sugary foods up until 1911, when it was bought by Edward R. Shane, a canned fruit seller. We know that Shane was of Irish descent, Berley states, which his family came to the United States in 1848 since of the Great Starvation. When Shane took control of the building, he turned the service into a retail shop and likely added Irish potato candy to the menu, which likewise includes brilliant, glass-like molded sugar sweets and chocolate creams.
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In 2010, Ryan and Eric Berley, mustachioed history buffs and business owners who likewise run the Franklin Fountain, bought the rundown shop from the Shane family. They invested 18 months remodeling the old interior, and had the ability to maintain its original wooden sweet counter and apothecary-like shelving. Though the store is still much better known for its clear toy candy, head confectioner Stephen Padilla says its Irish potato candy is extremely popular this time of year. I d say we go through over 500 each week, Padilla states, keeping in mind that they are made in little batches and rolled and ended up by hand. Shane s begins offering them on March 1 every year, and Padilla states they keep Irish potatoes on the shelves up until around Easter.
The dish Padilla makes today was adjusted from that 1911 book of confectionery, according to the Berley bros. To make the sweet even more Philadelphian, they added cream cheese, which likewise offsets the sweetness of the sweet with its tart notes, states Ryan Berley.
It s a cream cheese and confectioners sugar mix, Padilla explains, to which we add macaron and angel flake coconut that has been rehydrated in coconut water. (Macaroon or dessicated coconut is more like little, pinhead chips of sweetened, dried coconut than stringy flakes.) The candies are then portioned by hand, cominged in cinnamon, and dotted with little bits of nuts or seeds.
The majority of the larger Irish potato manufacturers put on t put cream cheese in their sweets, at least in part since adding fresh dairy minimizes the candy s rack life. Lamparelli s Oh Ryan s has actually been making Irish potato sweets given that it opened 28 years ago, utilizing vanilla buttercream (but not cream cheese), combined with coconut flavoring and macaroon coconut. We have two 130-year-old devices that procedure and cut and roll the filling into balls, Lamparelli says, and another maker that coats each one in cinnamon. Oh Ryan s production is enormous compared to Shane s. Oh Ryan s has actually sold 95,000 pounds of Irish potato sweet this year, which exercises to 2,800,000 private potatoes.
It s a bit odd, though, that 95 percent of Oh Ryan s sweet is sold to residents in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. As soon as you enter New York City, nine from 10 individuals don t know exactly what they are, Lamparelli notes. Over at Stutz Sweet Business which opened in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, about Thirty Minutes north of Philadelphia, in 1938 Bugg concurs. Something individuals forget is that East Coast cities, they want to hold on to their traditions, he states. Irish potato sweet is an example of that. People here buy them every year. Stutz offers nearly 2,000 pounds of the sweet each year, which exercises to be just under 20,000 individual pieces. Once again, most of these are entering into mouths in Philly s tri-state location.
But that s not to say West Coasters don t understand what an Irish potato is. See s Candies, which was established in 1921 in Los Angeles and is now headquartered in San Francisco, has actually produced what it calls St. Patrick s Day potatoes for over 50 years. See s records show that Ed Peck, a former company executive, developed the idea for the potato sweet, maybe based off one he d had at a candy reveal out East.
The California company s dish is based on a classic soft sweet filling called divinity. Julie Moldafsky, who operates in See s advertising department, states its filling combines white chocolate-flavored divinity and crushed walnuts. That mix is then cooled and executed a machine that divides it into potato-sized knobs. Each is rolled by hand before being enrobed in milk chocolate, dusted with a mix of cocoa and cinnamon, and embellished with a few pine nuts.
See s potatoes are sold each year in the month before St. Patrick s Day and appear to go quickly. The company offered out online particularly early this year; 30,000 pounds of See s larger potato candies have currently shipped out, and no more will be made this season. While Philadelphia s candy makers accommodate the East Coast, See s has a monopoly on the West Coast market, both in online orders and retail sales.
You say potato, I say ... This confection, in name and recipe, frequently gets confused with the potato candy of the American South, which is made from real mashed potato and always includes peanut butter while, generally, the one that came from Philadelphia does not. The difference can get confusing, considering that local tradition and recipe record keeping is nearly never ever precise. Author Joseph Dabney consisted of a hand-me-down-style dish called Irish potato sweet in his 2010 Southern food history Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking. It includes peanut butter:.
Auntie Sophie s Irish Potato Candy.
She d take one Irish potato and she d boil it. Then she d put it into a bowl, skin it and mash it up, and then spray powdered sugar on it. At this point she would roll it out like a jelly roll. Then she d take peanut butter and she d spread peanut butter on the potato roll. Then she d cut it up into sections like a jelly roll, spraying a bit more powdered sugar on top. We children simply liked it. It entertained us and kept us from her hair for awhile. Mary Nicoles, Reidsville, Georgia.
Generally recipes for potato candy or old-fashioned potato candy are referencing a Southern tradition and include peanut butter. Those that have Irish in front of their name almost never ever call for that ingredient. That peanut butter addition is intriguing, Ryan Berley states. I ve seen variations of Irish potato sweet made with potato it s from Pennsylvania Dutch custom but peanut butter ... That s definitely not something you d see around here.