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New Years Eve is the Time for Almonds!

New Years is a time for almonds! And why? Because it’s a time of new beginnings. A time when the light starts to come back and promises of a happier time start to form. SO WHY THE ALMOND? Well…The almond is the first tree to flower in the spring in the Middle East and Mediterranean. For that reason, it has been a symbol of good beginnings for thousands of years, including in the Bible. Sugar coated almonds have been among the favorites and still appear at weddings, Easter baskets, and other events – such as New Years EVE! – welcoming a good beginning. We have a variety of almonds – altogether new olive-shaped cocktail almonds with white chocolate, ancient cinnamon almonds and dragees, Biblical almonds in honey, milk chocolate candy bar with almonds, turn-of-century, and chocolate covered almonds, a favorite at bridge games in the 1920s, ’30s and 50s.  Always right for any new beginning, including those that happen every day! 4 oz in a recyclable heat-sealed bag with the history on the label.




Sugar Plum – Sugar What?

So what is a sugar plum? Actually, they go back to the 1500s – maybe even earlier.  To make sugar plums, skilled craftsmen apprenticed for years, absorbing the nuances of a trade that makes Julia Child look like a scullery maid in comparison. First, he coated seeds or nuts with gum Arabic, then put them in a “balancing pan,” suspended over a large, low fire, and rolled them in sugar syrup. To keep the coating even and the sugar from crystallizing, he kept the seeds and nuts in constant motion, stirring them with one hand and moving the pan with the other. He controlled the temperature of the heat by controlling the intensity of the fire.

Once the candy was coated, the confectioner set it aside where it dried for a day or two, then began the process again, stirring and moving, adding layer upon layer over a period of weeks.  In the last stage, the sugar coating smooth as glass, he often added a flourish of color, mulberry juice or cochineal for red, indigo stone for blue, spinach for green and saffron for yellow.

These sugar-coated bits were no gob-stoppers, but eaten with great decorum, after medieval meals in fourteenth century Paris. In the early 1700s, they were given as gifts, particularly the sugar-coated almond with its symbol of joyous beginnings.[iii]

The name “sugar plum” appeared inThomas Decker’s Lanthorne and Candlelight,[iv] in 1608 but had nothing to do with plums, prunes, or any sort of poached fruit. Instead “plum” referred to the word “good.” “Sugar plum” equals “good sugar.” Given the cost and time involved in producing them, the sugar plum was also associated with money. If someone was giving a bribe, they were said to be stuffing that person’s mouth with sugar plums. “Plum” was also 18th century slang for a large amount of money.

  • From my book Sweet as Sin (Littlefield and Rowan, 2016)

Want to try one? We have the 1600s variety, and the late 1700s variety aka cream filberts.

OH – and we have a delicious late-1800s variety you probably wouldn’t consider a sugar plum – the jaw breaker!