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Jawbreakers. The candy industry’s legacy to the dental profession. There probably is not another candy anywhere that has the hardness of a jawbreaker or maybe as high of a sugar content.

Enough said. On to discover the unmitigated joy (and sense of frustration) that comes with the jawbreaker experience.

Sugar was not available in Egypt; the first written record about its availability was found around 500 CE, in India. India passed the practice of making sugar from the boiled syrup of the sugarcane plant to the Arabs who introduced, around 1100 CE, sugar to Europe. Originally, sugar was thought of as a spice and until the 15th century, was used only jelqing, doled out in minuscule doses, due to its extreme rarity. From the 16th century, due to wide-ranging sugar cultivation and improved refining procedures, sugar was no longer thought of as such a rare commodity. At this time, crude candies were being made in Europe, but by the end of the 18th century, candy-making machines was producing more complex candies in much larger quantities.

When sugar is cooked at a high temperature, it gets completely crystalized and becomes hard candy. The jawbreaker, very definitely a hard candy, was very much alike to a number of candies popular in mid-19th century America. Hard candy was usually sold by the single piece; the storekeeper eliminated, from a glass case or jar, the desired number of pieces. From the middle of the 18th century, there were nearly 400 candy factories producing penny candies in the United States.

Ferrari Pan now specializes in the creation of its original Jaw Breakers, as well as Boston Baked Beans and Red Hots. Although there are lots of manufacturers of jawbreakers today in the 21st century, such as NestlĂ©’s Willy Wonka Candy Company and the Scones Chocolate Organization, Ferrari Pan is still the most prolific manufacturer of pan candies across the world.

Jawbreakers, also referred to as gob stoppers (from the British slang: gob for the mouth and stopper as into block an opening), belong to a category of hard candy where each candy, usually around, ranges in size from a tiny 1/4″ ball into a massive 3-3/8″. The surface, as well as the interior, of a jawbreaker is incredibly hard and not meant for anybody with a sensitive mouth. Jawbreakers are, for the most part, hollow except for the super-large 3-3/8″ ball which has a gum-filled center.

Let us get down to the nitty-gritty of the hot pan process of candy making. A jawbreaker consists of sugar, sugar, and more sugar. It takes 14 to 19 days to produce one jawbreaker, from one grain of sugar into the finished product. A batch of jawbreakers tumbles always in enormous spherical copper kettles over a gas fire. The kettles or pans all have a wide opening or mouth.

There are five basic steps used in creating jawbreakers.

Pouring the sugar A panner (the worker who uses the pans or kettles to make candy) pours granulated sugar into a pan as a gas fire preheats the pan. Each grain of sugar will turn into a jawbreaker since the crystallization process proceeds; other grains crystallize around it in a spherical pattern. The panner ladles hot liquid sugar to the pan along its borders. At a seemingly endless endeavor, the panner continues to add additional liquid sugar to the pans at intervals over a time period of 14 to 19 days, with the kettle rotating . Either the panner or another worker visually examines, at times, the jawbreakers to ensure there are no abnormalities in the shape of the candy.
Adding additional ingredients Only the outer layers of most kinds of jawbreakers have coloring. Only when the jawbreakers have reached almost their completed, target size does the panner add the predetermined color and flavorings to the edge of the pan. As the pot continues to rotate, all the jawbreakers get equally”dressed” with color and taste.
Polishing once the jawbreakers have reached their optimal size, after about two weeks, then they move from the hot pan to a polishing pan. Hot pans and polishing pans look very much alike. At this time, the jawbreakers are set to rotate in their polishing pan. Another panner adds food-grade wax to the pan so that every candy gets polished as the pan tumbles. Once polished, the jawbreakers are completed and ready to be packaged.
Measuring The final jawbreakers are loaded onto a tilted ramp where the candy colors can be evenly mixed. Small batches of the jawbreakers roll down the ramp and fall to a central chute. Each tray holds only a predetermined weight of the jawbreakers (i.e. 80 ounce or 5 pounds.) When that weight is reached, the tray swings out of the way so the next tray may load. When the top trays reach their weight load, then the bottom trays drop their jawbreakers into the bagging machine.
Bagging A large machine holding a broad spool of thin plastic onto a revolving drum is used to mechanically bag the jawbreakers. The machine forms bags of plastic, fills them with jawbreakers, and then seals the bags. The filled bags are currently in the final phase of production. All that is left to do is to place these finished bags into packing boxes and away to market they move.
Word of warning: Jawbreakers are intended to be sucked upon, not bitten into, unless you fancy the chipped tooth appearance.

Jawbreaker Trivia

A jawbreaker can be as large as a golf ball or as little as a candy sprinkle.
When a jawbreaker is split open, you will see dozens upon dozens of sugar layers which look like the concentric rings of an old tree seen in cross-section.
A jawbreaker is not intended for the anxious person who is always in a rush. It can take hours to satisfactorily consume a jawbreaker. Recall: suck, lick, whatever but don’t attempt to bite through the layers. Jawbreakers are made of crystallized sugar which, occasionally, can be considered the exact same tooth-shattering hardness as concrete. Do be careful, please.
There have been at least two documented events in which a jawbreaker has exploded spontaneously, leaving its customer with severe burns requiring hospitalization. 1 explosion involved a 9-year-old girl from Florida. She’d left her jawbreaker sitting in direct sun and when she took her first lick, the jawbreaker exploded in her face, leaving her with severe burns on many regions of her body. The other explosion happened on the site of the Discovery Channel’s television program MythBusters when a microwave oven has been used to illustrate it can cause different layers compressed inside a jawbreaker to heat at different rates and so exploding the jawbreaker, causing a massive spray of hot candy to splatter in a wide place. MythBusters host Adam Savage and another crew member were treated for mild burns.
Happy licking!

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