Jawbreakers. The candy industry’s heritage to the dental profession. There probably is not another candy anywhere that has the hardness of a jawbreaker or maybe as large 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 accessibility was found around 500 CE, in India. 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. By the 16th century, as a result of wide-ranging sugar cultivation and improved refining procedures, sugar was no longer considered to be such a rare commodity. At this point, crude candies were being made in Europe, but by the end of the 18th century, candy-making machines was producing more intricate candies in much larger quantities.
When sugar is cooked at a high temperature, it becomes completely crystalized and becomes hard candy. By the middle of the 18th century, there were almost 400 candy factories producing penny candy in america.
The jawbreaker rose to prominence due to the efforts of the Ferrari Pan Candy Company in Forest Park, Illinois. Founded in 1919, the Ferrari Pan Candy Company, the brainchild of Salvador Ferrari and his two brothers-in-law, specialized in candy made with the hot pan and cold pan process. Ferrari Pan now specializes in the creation of its first Jaw Breakers, as well as Boston Baked Beans and Red Hots. Although there are many manufacturers of jawbreakers now in the 21st century, such as Nestlé’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 in to block an opening), belong to a category of hard candy where every candy, usually round, ranges in size from a tiny 1/4″ ball into a enormous 3-3/8″. The surface, in addition to the interior, of a jawbreaker is extremely hard and not meant for anybody with a sensitive mouth.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the hot pan procedure for candy making. A jawbreaker is made up 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 mouth or opening.
Pouring the sugar A panner (the employee who uses the pans or kettles to make candy) pours granulated sugar into a pan while a gas flame 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 into 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 types 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 flavor.
Polishing once the jawbreakers have reached their optimal size, after about two weeks, they move from the hot pan into a polishing pan. Hot pans and polishing pans seem very much alike. At this point, the jawbreakers are set to rotate in their skillet. Another panner adds food-grade wax into the pan so that each candy gets polished as the pan tumbles. Once polished, the jawbreakers are finished 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 this jawbreakers roll down the ramp and fall to a central chute. The jawbreakers continue their journey by falling into trays arranged on spiral arms of the central chute. Each tray holds only a predetermined weight of the jawbreakers (i.e. 80 oz or 5 lb.) When that weight is reached, the tray swings out of the way so that the next tray may load. When the top trays reach their weight load, 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 automatically bag the jawbreakers. The machine forms bags of plastic, fills them with jawbreakers, then seals the bags. The filled bags are currently in the final stage of production. All that is left to do is to place these finished bags into packing boxes and off to market they move.
Word of warning: Jawbreakers are meant to be sucked upon, not bitten into, unless you fancy the chipped tooth appearance.
A jawbreaker can be as big as a golf ball or as small as a candy sprinkle.
When a jawbreaker is split open, you may see dozens upon dozens of sugar layers that look like the concentric rings of an old tree seen in cross-section.
A jawbreaker isn’t intended for the anxious person who’s always in a rush. It may take hours to satisfactorily consume a jawbreaker. Remember: suck, lick, whatever but do not attempt to bite through the layers. Jawbreakers are made of crystallized sugar that, at times, can be considered the same tooth-shattering hardness as concrete.
There have been at least two documented occasions where a jawbreaker has exploded spontaneously, leaving its consumer with severe burns requiring hospitalization. One 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 areas of her body. The other explosion happened on the site of the Discovery Channel’s television program MythBusters when a microwave oven was used to illustrate it can cause unique layers compressed within a jawbreaker to heat at different rates and so exploding the jawbreaker, causing a massive spray of exceedingly hot candy to splatter in a wide place. MythBusters host Adam Savage and another crew member were treated for light burns.