Mary Jane Candy | An old-fashioned favorite since 1914.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
New England may be known for its comfort food repertoire of baked beans, brown bread, and Yankee pot roast, but that doesn’t mean we Yankees don’t love the occasional candy indulgence. From penny candy classics to old-fashioned homemade treats, here are a few notable New England candy brands and recipes.
Since their debut in 1847, Necco Wafers have been a classic American candy with nostalgic appeal. Even tearing the paper to unroll the tube does it, with that puff of powdered sugar and the mingling flavor-scents, both sweet and spicy, hitting your nose. The combination may seem odd by today’s candy standards, but the flavor blend is a familiar one if you grew up eating Necco Wafers, and just one bite (which is more of a snap!) makes the time travel complete. Sadly, Necco’s parent company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018, and the Necco Wafer (along with Sweethearts conversation hearts and Canada Mints) were sold to the Spangler Candy Company of Ohio, best known for their Dum Dum Lollipops. Spangler quickly announced plans for both Necco Wafers and Sweethearts to return to store shelves in 2019. Learn more here.
If you look forward to long-held traditions at Christmas, you probably love Sevigny’s Thin Ribbon Candy. Made in Brockton, MA, the colorful, compressed swoops of candy in flavors such as cinnamon, peppermint, wintergreen, and orange have been sweetening the holiday season in New England and beyond for more than 150 years.
A chewy peanut butter and molasses taffy, the Mary Jane (also made by Necco) is a nostalgic New England penny candy favorite. Named after the creator’s favorite aunt, the candy is instantly recognizable thanks to its yellow and red illustration of a bonnet-wearing little girl, part of its packaging since the beginning back in 1914.
Ah, the perfect summer treat! Most people agree that saltwater taffy was first popularized at Fralinger’s, a shop on the Atlantic City boardwalk, around 1883. Though the recipe does call for some salt, the taffy was never actually made with saltwater; according to TheNew York Times, the name may simply refer to the boardwalk’s proximity to the sea — and we’ve got plenty of that here in New England. Goldenrod Kisses from York, Maine, are a staff favorite.
Sky Bar has four separate milk chocolate chambers, each filled with the sugary goodness of caramel, vanilla, fudge, or peanut flavor. For those who can’t make up their minds, a Sky Bar is the perfect choice. Why settle for one flavor when you can get four?
Potatoes are the “Maine” ingredient in needhams, a dark chocolate–covered coconut-cream treat. For the best homemade needhams, be sure to start with warm (not hot) mashed potato for a smooth filling, and don’t be afraid to return the chocolate to the heat for a moment or two if it starts to cool and thicken while you’re still dipping the squares.
Expressing love and affection on Valentine’s Day is a tradition dating back centuries, but here in New England, the practice is extra sweet. Why? Necco Sweethearts! Made by Necco in Massachusetts for nearly 150 years, Necco Sweethearts, the pastel candy “conversation hearts” stamped with sweet phrases of love and friendship, are the most popular non-chocolate Valentine’s Day candy.
Pure maple syrup (what’s left when the sap is heated until most of the water evaporates, leaving a concentrated syrup behind) gets most of the maple sugar glory, but there are many who also look forward to an annual maple candy treat, be it a single piece or an entire gift box. Prized for its crumbly-meets-creamy texture and deep maple flavor, maple candy is made when the sap is heated beyond the syrup stage to the crystalline stage, where it’s then whipped and poured into decorative molds to harden. The results are both beautiful (thanks to the molds) and delicious.
Simple and sweet, this retro peanut butter and potato candy roll has only four ingredients and is a simple and inexpensive way to make something sweet. It’s often associated with the Great Depression, when times were tight and ingredients like tomato soup and mashed potato made their way into desserts.
Which New England candy brands are your favorites? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.