THE ORIGINS OF THE JELLY BEAN
A very modern confectionery phenomenon
The exact origins of the jelly bean are pretty much lost in time and little of its earliest history is known. However, - as a modern confectionery phenomenon - it is creating a history all of its own.
Most experts believe the soft centre is a descendant of Turkish Delight that dates back to pre-Biblical times and very much a Middle-Eastern delicacy. The shell coating is an offspring of a process called panning, first invented in 17th century France to make Jordan Almonds for the Royal Court.The French confectioners began by rocking almonds in a pan filled with sugar and syrup until the almonds were coated with a shell. Today, large rotating drums do the heavy work, but it’s still called “panning.”
While machines may do most of the work, master confectioners apply their true art in the panning process when they add the ingredients to create just-the-right shell. Somehow the two processes made their way to America. The earliest known appearance of a jelly bean is an 1861 advertisement for William Schrafft of Boston that promoted the sending of jelly beans to soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Why are they called jelly beans? Confectioners like novelty shapes- especially things that people recognize. Sweetie Mice used to be a big favourite of children in 19th century Britain. Jelly Belly Candy Company archives show 100-year-old product listings of everything on offer by the first generation of Goelitz family confectioners and sweets were commonly made into vegetable shapes - chestnuts, carrots and turnips as well as seasonal shapes like bunnies for Easter.
The diet of most Americans in the 1800s was dominated by beans and vegetables from their own fields. An unknown and forgotten confectioner designed a bean-shaped soft jelly – and possibly at the same time worked out how to put a shell on it so it wouldn’t stick. Anyway, the jelly bean was born. Jelly Belly beans today retains that distinctive shape of a bean.Jelly beans quickly earned a place among the many glass jars of “penny candy” in general stores where they were sold by weight and taken home in paper bags. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that jelly beans became a part of America’s Easter traditions - probably due to their egg-like appearance in nests. About the same time they started appearing in British sweet shops. In 1976 the invention of Jelly Belly jelly beans, the original gourmet jelly bean® thoroughly revolutionized the popular notion of this delicious sweet.