Taste History Today: Clear Toys and Cleveland’s Early Ethnic Groups

I wanted to share with you two interesting, culinary history Christmas presents I received this year. My mom tucked a pair of “clear toys” into my stocking; made by Timberlake Candies, these little treast were popular gifts in the Victorian era:

Twisted sticks of Barley Sugar were originally made in the 17th century by boiling down refined cane sugar (a new product at that time) with barley water, cream of tartar, and water. During the 18th century metal molds were used to create the wonderful variety of shapes known as Barley Sugar Clear Toys. These became a popular Victorian Christmas treat.

“Clear Toy Candy” refers to the molding of hard candy into various three dimensional shapes without sticks (not a lollypop). The term does not imply the use of Barley Candy, though traditionally Barley Sugar and Barley Candy were used to make clear toy candy.

Timberlake Candy has hundreds of antique molds appropriate for any holiday or season, but they only make the traditional barley candy for a few weeks around Christmas. Buy barley sugar candy here.
My aunt gave me a tin of spices from The Olive and The Grape , a local business in Cleveland.  The tin contains a collection of seasonings “…Reflecting the history and foods of the ten major ethnic groups who were first to settle Cleveland–African-Americans, Chinese, Czech, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Polish, Slovenian and Ukrainian.”  I’ll have to cook a traditional Cleveland area dish appropriate to each of these ethnic groups!

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