Between cookies, pies and dreaded Christmas fruit cake, satisfying your sweet tooth during the holidays is generally not a problem. But for me, the real treat of the season is a thoughtful selection of candies and chocolates. And while most stores offer the same selection of famous brands, around the country there are still a few regional candy companies left that provide delicious confections with a taste of history. Whether you’re looking for unusual stocking stuffers or are simply curious about alternatives to the usual grocery store sweets, try these five old-timey candies. Enjoy!
With a hearty layer of Virginia peanuts and milk chocolate covering a creamy maple center, the Nut Goodie has been a Minnesota staple for more than a century. Pearson’s Candy Company was founded in Minneapolis in 1909 by three brothers. (They were soon joined by the remaining two other Peason boys.) By 1912, the company launched one of its first products, the Nut Goodie, which cost a mere nickel at the time. As the years passed, the Nut Goodie grew in popularity and Pearson’s eventually launched additional candies, including the Salted Nut Roll in 1933. In the years to follow, the company acquired other candies and candy manufacturers—including Bun Bar and Bit-o-Honey—and moved its operations to Saint Paul, where it remains to this day. Not big on maple? Don’t worry; the Nut Goodie range has expanded to include a Nut Goodie with a salted caramel filling.
The same year Pearson’s Nut Goodie launched in Minnesota, Nashville’s Standard Candy Company launched a similar peanut-and-milk chocolate coated confection, the Goo Goo Cluster. This candy boasted not one, but two fillings: caramel and marshmallow nougat. It was, the company claims, “the world’s first ever combination candy bar,” and was marketed as “a nourishing lunch for a nickel.” While there’s no definitive story of how the candy got the name Goo Goo, the son of co-inventor Howell Campbell, Sr., says the candy is named for his first words. The candy remains a Nashville staple to this day, where you can visit the Goo Goo Shop to watch the candy being made or find the treat in shops all over the city. But you don’t have to travel to Tennessee to buy one, anyone who lives in the U.S. or Canada can buy Goo Goo Clusters online all-year long.
When you think of an Idaho spud, you no doubt visualize an actual potato rather than a cocoa-flavored marshmallow candy coated with dark chocolate and coconut—unless you’re actually from Idaho, that is. A Idahoan institution since 1918, the Idaho Candy Co. now claims that it’s “one of the top selling candy bars in the Northwest.” Because this chocolaty spud originally nixed gelatin from its list of ingredients in favor of agar agar, it was also marketed as a healthy snack option. The company still calls its original factory space in Boise home, though there have been substantial improvements over the past century, as well as a number of other candy launches, including Huckleberry Gems (chocolate-covered, huckleberry-flavored marshmallow cremes). If you suddenly can’t live without some Idaho marshmallow, you can buy Spuds, Gems and more sweet treats at the company’s online retail shop.
From tater-tot casserole and mashed potatoes topped with chicken and noodles, when it comes to hearty dishes the Midwest is king. So it’s no surprise that this chocolate-covered cherry confection is from Missouri. Chase Candy Company first blends maraschino cherries with fondant and then slathers the filling with a thick coating of milk chocolate and peanut bits. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the candy’s birth and the company’s first production plant in Missouri. When it was first created, the candy bar weighed in at a whopping four-ounces, but it has since downsized to a more reasonable 2 ounces. The Cherry Mash is still today a big seller in its hometown and you can put in an order online.
Log rolls have long been a staple for sweet-toothed Georgians, but this is one candy that doesn’t rely on a sweet, chocolate coating. Instead, a log of cherry nougat is rolled in caramel and then coated in pecans to produce a crunchy, creamy treat that packs protein and sugary goodness. It’s unclear which Georgia candy company first created the log roll, but plenty of confectioners continue to make it today, including Stuckey’s, Claxton Bakery, Mascot Pecan Shelling Co., and River Street Sweets. Once you try one, you’ll probably want a supply for your holiday celebrations.