I've always wondered why the chewy candy sold in oceanside towns is called salt water taffy.
Today I heard two versions. The first, as I suspected, was that the recipe calls for both salt and water. But the candy isn't made with saltwater, today or ever.
The second, if no more likely, is a bit more winsome. As the story goes, stormy seas flooded a Mr. David Bradley's Atlantic City candy store in 1883. Pile upon pile of Bradley's taffy was soaked with ocean water. A little girl walked by in search of candy, and all he had to offer was "salt water taffy." She left thrilled, and the name stuck.
Whatever the true origins of the name, Cabot's Candy Co. in Provincetown has been making the oceanside treat since 1927. Begun as a family business, the local landmark has been making taffy by hand in small batches with the same recipe for three generations. Walking through Provincetown today, I couldn't resist a stop. I picked up a wax wrapped piece of chewy molasses to sustain me while I wandered home.
It was so sweet that when I arrived I dug out a recipe to test. Results will follow...
Makes about 1 pound
Before you begin, butter a baking sheet. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together 2 cups unsulfured molasses, 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and then cook without stirring until a small amount of the sweet mixture dropped into very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but remains flexible.
Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet, and spread using a spatula to cool. Get out a pair of greased kitchen scissors and a sheet of wax paper, and grease your hands. When taffy is just cool enough to touch, form it into several balls and stretch the lumps of candy from the fingertips of one hand to the other until it is almost a foot and a half long.
Double it up and pull again, continuing until the candy is porous and hard to pull. Stretch into a rope 3/4 inch in diameter, and cut with greased scissors into 1 inch pieces. Wrap in wax paper; twist ends to seal. Store in tightly closed tin.