Most everyone love salt water taffy, but did you ever wonder when and how it was first made? Salt Water Taffy is a variety of soft taffy originally produced and marketed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, beginning in the late 19th century. The most popular explanation of the name is that of a candy-store owner, David Bradley, whose shop was flooded during a major storm in 1883. His stock of taffy was soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water.

salt water

Salt Water Taffy Was Born

Shortly afterward, a young girl came into his shop and asked if he had any taffy for sale. Mr. Bradley jokingly offered her some “salt water taffy.” After sampling a piece, the girl purchased the candy and walked down to the beach to show her friends. Bradley’s mother was in the back of the store and overheard the conversation. She loved the name “saltwater taffy”, and that’s what it was called from then on.

Making Salt Water Taffy

Taffy was first cooked in copper kettles over open coal fires, cooled on marble slabs, and pulled from a large hook. The “Taffy Pull” was a household enjoyment on Saturday nights as well as an Atlantic City enterprise. The process of pulling taffy adds air to the corn syrup and sugar mix. First the puller got the taffy to about a 5 foot length, then it is looped over itself on the hook, trapping air between the two lengths of taffy.

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Pulling Taffy

This process of aeration helped to keep the taffy soft. The pulled taffy was shaped by hand-rolling it on marble or wooden tables. It was then cut to a 2-inch length with scissors and, finally, wrapped in a pre-cut piece of wax paper with a twist at both ends. All of this was done by hand and usually within the sight of boardwalk strollers.

Atlantic City Souvenir

Joseph Fralinger really popularized the candy by boxing it and selling it as an Atlantic City souvenir. Fralinger’s first major competitor was candy maker Enoch James, who refined the recipe, making it less sticky and easier to unwrap. James also cut the candy into bite-sized pieces, and is credited with mechanizing the “pulling” process. Both Fralinger’s and James’s stores still operate on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Today’s Taffy

Today’s taffy is cooked in large stainless steel or copper kettles and then vacuum cooked a second time. The pulling and packaging is now done with machines. This produces much more taffy at greater speeds. Salt water taffy is still sold on the boardwalks in Atlantic City, nearby island Ocean City, and other tourist areas throughout the United States and Canada.

Summer is Coming, What’s on the Agenda?

Looking for more sweet treats, give this fudge recipe a try. White Chocolate Coffee Toffee Fudge