Truth be told; I’m not a hard candy lover. It’s just not on my vice list.
Having said that I am a believer in fully exploring what one’s locality has to offer. When I learned about Hammond’s Candies factory tours I felt it was something I should check off my local list. I was so glad I did! I had no idea Hammond’s Candies is the largest hard candy manufacturer in the United States. They have been in business since 1920. As we walked past the various candy making stations it struck me that the machines used to make the beautiful ribbon candy (really a vintage treat) are the same they have used since the 1920’s. I found that somewhat unbelievable as well as remarkable how many human operators are still involved the process. You might imagine a slick clean room staffed only by robotics but Hammond’s still relies on a 100 employees to craft and deliver their sweets which I think is part of its charm and enduring success.
I originally went on the tour in July. It’s hot then and mid day outdoor activities can be excruciating here being so close to the sun. Between the air conditioning and the vast amount of candy canes being produced it was a great way to spend an hour of my day. The candy cane production seemed grossly unseasonal to me. And where would all these candy canes be stored for Christmas I wondered, imagining they were all for decking our U.S. halls. I learned that actually many of the candy canes are shipped overseas where a candy cane is not relegated to 3 weeks of annual consumption then banished from all culinary consideration ‘til the following December. Who knew?!
I think my favorite part of the tour was watching large glossy globs of semi-firm candy being poured out onto stainless steel table tops to be massaged into trios of colors and fed into the ribbon machines emerging in a perfect looping ribbon candy. I imagined my grandmother having some in a cut crystal candy bowl for visitors (except my grandmother didn’t roll like that) and now we are sampling the same thing! Their candy is more than current (stay tuned for some of the flavor options) yet with the classic aesthetic I find comforting. The overriding motto for Hammond’s is ‘quality’ which I’m sure has contributed to their longevity and popularity amongst high profiles magazines and catalogs such as Oprah, Saveur, Williams-Sonoma, Dean and Deluca as well as a number of well-viewed food TV programs.
I popped back in this week to the Hammond’s Candy Shop which adjoins the factory area. It truly is like a wonderland of sweets. Their merchandising is superb. You can become lost in the choices. Hammond’s currently offers over 30 candy cane flavors. When you look at the photos below you’ll see these are not Santa’s old school candy canes (though they have those too). I noted flavors of Ginger Hibiscus, Pear, Strawberry, Pomegranate, Apple Pie among many others. We sent a pear and clove candy cane to friends in the UK last year in their Christmas package to rave reviews. Hammond’s also offers the Mac Daddy of candy canes which is about 2 feet long with a diameter of at least an inch.
There was a section of the store dedicated to Hanukkah candy. Lollipops galore. All sizes, flavors. An entire cabinet of cocoa. An extensive assortment of chocolates. Bins upon bins of hard candy. Fabulous assortments of holiday candy packaged to make an easy gift or stocking stuffer (if it lasts that long at your house). Hammond’s also has an All Natural line in which the candy is colored with natural plant dyes (personally I love the chromatic tones from natural dyes).
My favorite visual display involved the colors lemon yellow, lime green and the notion of alcoholic beverages. Wonderful tartan cocktail shakers and ‘cocktail sticks’ to suck yummy drinks through (Santa? Are you listening?). I’ve shared my food motto in prior posts; when you would wear the food it’s a sure validation you should buy it.
This is a wonderful time of year to pop in and take a free tour (walk in, no reservations), enjoy some free samples, do some shopping (they also have a great array of small toys and vintage-inspired games and items) OR attend their upcoming Candy Cane Festival. They do ship internationally so for non-local readers you will not be left out! Hammond’s website is extensive and I overheard a cheery representative helping an internet shopper on the phone when I was in the store. They take great pride in their product and helping find the perfect items for candy consumers.
HAMMOND’S CANDY CANE FESTIVAL: Saturday December 11, 2010 9:00 a.m. – Dusk. An employee excitedly shared they expect 7,000 people to visit their festival! They clear out part of their shipping area to accommodate all the visitors and planned fun. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the house with reindeer. There will be a face painting, storytelling, caroling, cookie decorating and trolley rides!
FACTORY TOURS AND STORE INFORMATION (click this link for detailed info):
· Location: 5735 N. Washington Street, Denver CO 80216. 303-333-5588.
· Regular Tours (every 30 minutes during designated hours): Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Saturday 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Sunday closed
· Store Hours: Monday –Friday 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Sunday closed
· Behind the Scenes Tour: is offered at a cost of $25.00 and allows you to go into the candy making area to help out! Reservation and age requirements can be viewed on Hammond’s website.