Where Do Candy Canes Come From? Logan's in downtown Ontario, Calif., is keeping an old Christmas tradition alive. This season, the jolly candy maker and his crew will turn out 70,000 to 80,000 canes.
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Where Do Candy Canes Come From?

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Where Do Candy Canes Come From?

Where Do Candy Canes Come From?

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Okay. That was delicious, and so is this. In Ontario, California, about an hour east of Los Angeles, there's a little candy store that's keeping an old Christmas tradition alive.

It's a favorite of our contributor Charles Phoenix. He is from Ontario.


BRAND: And Alex, he's a guy who made me that dinner on Thanksgiving, complete with a turkey meatloaf in the shape of a tiki god.


BRAND: Remember that?

(Soundbite of music)

CHARLES PHOENIX: Meat as a sculptural medium is a little more difficult to work with than I had anticipated. But don't you worry about a thing. It's going to come out beautifully.

BRAND: Oh, and it did. Anyway, back to that candy store, it's Logan's Candy. And Charles Phoenix took our producer Steve Proffitt for a visit. Here's Steve.

STEVE PROFFITT: It's just a little storefront on a side street near Ontario's downtown. But according to native Charles Phoenix, the handmade candy canes at Logan's have been treasured since the shop opened here in 1933.

PHOENIX: People come here during the Christmas season and they watch the candy man make handmade candy canes. And it's fascinating to see, of course.

PROFFITT: And the candy man, he's happy like a candy man should be.

Mr. JERRY ROWLEY (Candy Maker): My name is Jerry Rowley, candy maker extraordinaire, works very well. No, just Jerry. Jerry is fine. And actually, I started working here when I was 12 years old.

PROFFITT: That was 33 years ago. Now he owns the place.

Mr. ROWLEY: In '82 me and my wife, Susie, bought the store and we've been running it ever since.

PROFFITT: And is it as fun to make candy canes 33 years later as it was?

Mr. ROWLEY: It is. It is. Ask me that question, you know, the day before Christmas, it might be a little - my feet might be a little sore. No, you know what? When the people come in and watch and the kids get to watch it, there's nothing better. It's one of the harder things to make, but it is also one of the better things because when you see the faces, when they see this yellow blob suddenly 10, 12 minutes down the line, turn into candy canes, they're just amazed.

PROFFITT: And it is amazing. The process begins with a big vat of what looks like yellow lava, bubbling on an ancient cook stove.

Mr. ROWLEY: And that's our mixture of sugar water and corn syrup. We're just going to pour it on this marble slab right here.

PROFFITT: Wow, it's very hot. It's like standing in front of a heater.

Jerry begins working the steaming sticky yellow mass, using what looks like a putty knife, folding the raw candy so it cools uniformly.

Mr. ROWLEY: Now, what we're doing here is we're separating it in two piles. Our smaller pile here is going to be the red.

PROFFITT: Jerry mixes some dye into a loaf-size bundle of the goo, then puts a tiny measure of peppermint flavoring into the larger yellow mound.

Mr. ROWLEY: We're going to add less than a quarter of ounce of flavoring. It's a very strong triple-distilled peppermint.

PROFFITT: And now a bit of magic. Jerry carefully picks up the big hot yellow blob. It weighs close to 20 pounds.

It's not as easy as it looks.

Mr. ROWLEY: It's pretty heavy. Pretty heavy and thick at this point.

PROFFITT: And drops it on a big hook attached to the wall. He lets it fall. The candy stretches. He catches it and repeats the motion.

Mr. ROWLEY: We're going to get Charles up here in just a minute (unintelligible) You can see it was very yellow and now with each pull the colors start to lighten a little bit. It almost looks like threads of hair because we're stretching long skinny air bubbles into the white part of candy cane here.

PROFFITT: Having pulled it, Jerry makes a block of the white candy, maybe about a foot square. Then he cuts the red candy into strips, twisting and rolling it with the white, engaging Charles as his assistant.

Mr. ROWLEY: Kind of turning into what we call like a barber pole. Cut off this little first piece and then there we go. A little cut and then a little roll, we're going to make our first candy cane. Now, Charles is just going to start pushing just one or two or three or four times.


Mr. ROWLEY: And then you're going to shoot it right down the other end (unintelligible).

PHOENIX: Like that? Okay.

Mr. ROWLEY: Just like that. That's it.


PROFFITT: Jerry's wife, Susie, shows Charles how to bend the hook to finish the cane, and soon they've filled a long table. It's full of fresh, tasty candy canes.



PROFFITT: How would you rate yourself as a candy maker?

PHOENIX: Well, I think I'm doing okay. But it's way more difficult to make candy canes than I ever realized. I had no idea.

PROFFITT: Charles helped make maybe 50 canes. This holiday season, Jerry Rowley will make between 70 and 80 thousand, all rolled, twisted, bent and wrapped by hand.

Mr. ROWLEY: Then of course I get to try at least a piece out of every batch. That's always the fun part.


PROFFITT: Oh, and if you want some, you'll have to stop by. No online ordering.

Let's take our candy and head out of here.

I'm Steve Proffitt.

PHOENIX: And I'm Charles Phoenix at Logan's Candy Store in Ontario, California.

BRAND: Get a look at those fresh, tasty candy canes on our Web site, npr.org.

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com.

I'm Alex Chadwick.

BRAND: And I'm Madeleine Brand. Delicious.

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