Small Ovoids of Turkish Delight in Multiple Bright Colors

by Cie McCullough Buschle on April 22, 2011

in Arts and Culture, Food Adventures

Turkish Delight

When I was a kid, I imagined that Turkish Delight was the most delicious thing in the world. Not that I had ever tasted it, but anything that could get Edward Pevensie to turn on his brother and sisters and go riding with the White Witch in the middle of Winter to her Ice Castle just had to be incredible.

And it is.

Soft, gooey, covered in powdered sugar, and the very best ones have nuts. Some of you might ask “But where’s the chocolate?” This lovely candy doesn’t need chocolate. It’s been around since at least the 15th Century, possibly since Biblical times, so you know it has staying power, and it is indeed from Turkey.

You may have guessed that the original name was not Turkish Delight, because that would be silly; in Turkey it is called Lokum, from the Arabic word for “morsel”. Another Ottoman name for Lokum is Rahat Hulkum or “contentment of the throat”. Similar dishes, with similar names, can be found in countries from Poland to Korea, and almost everywhere in between. Of course the Greeks call it “Greek Delight”, as they never did get along with the Turks too well.

Lokum on display

Sometime in the 19th Century, an Englishman was traveling throughout the world, as Englishman are wont to do, and when he reached Turkey simply fell in love with Lokum. Of course he shipped skads of it back to England, where every one else thought it was divine. It was this unknown and unheralded Brit that named the delicacy Turkish Delight.

But today is National Jelly Bean Day! Why am I talking about a candy that most of us would have never even heard of had it not been for CS Lewis? Because those Victorians so loved Turkish Delight they decided to make the pieces even smaller. Plus the powdered sugar did get a bit messy, all over one’s gloves and whatnot. So they decided to coat the tiny pieces of Turkish Delight with a shell, in a process called “panning”.

This process is somewhat similar to how Jordan Almonds are made, but with candy instead of chocolate. (No, jelly beans don’t need chocolate!) The candy bits were rocked in a large bowl, along with sugar, syrup, flavoring, and no small amount of secret ingredients, until a hard outer shell is formed. Nowadays the beans are panned in a large rotating drum, slowly adding the ingredients for the outer shell. When this is done, the jelly beans continue to rotate for two to four days until they are shiny and polished.

handful of jelly beans

When first introduced, jelly beans were just one of the many penny candies sold in big glass jars at everyone’s favorite general merchandise store. But at some point in the 1930s, possibly because they were cheaper than eggs if you didn’t have a chicken, jelly beans started showing up in Easter Baskets. After all, they looked like brightly colored Easter Eggs, if you had a very tiny hen.

Then about forty years later, Mr David Klein came up with the idea to use real fruit juices and natural flavors to make gourmet jelly beans, which in turn means using less sugar. Mr Klein also had the revolutionary idea – so appropriate in the year 1976 – to flavor the inside as well as the outside of the beans. You see, Turkish delights come in flavors such as rosewater, cinnamon and mint. When turning the Turkish delights into little tiny jelly beans, it was much easier (and cheaper) to just flavor the shells with something more palatable to British tastes, such as cherry, orange, grape and lemon. Now here comes Mr. Klein wanting to make Jelly Bellies, with bold flavors like tangerine, green apple, A&W Root Beer and Cream Soda, and not just cherry and grape but Very Cherry and Grape Jelly.

Jelly Bellies

A decade or two later and the Jelly Belly company now produces: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, from the imagination of JK Rowling; Soda Pop Shoppe, not just Root Beer and Cream Soda, but Orange Crush, Dr Pepper and 7-Up; and Sports Beans, for athletes with added electrolytes, carbs and vitamins B & C. But the most interesting product line is the Jelly Belly Cocktail Classics, with flavors like Margarita, Piña Colada and Strawberry Daquiri.

I wonder what the Turks would think of those?

Get It!

Want to try Turkish Delights? I had some at a gourmet candy store almost 25 years ago, but haven’t seen any since. But now, thanks to the magic of the internet and Amazon, they are much easier to find:

Assorted Turkish Delight17oz of Turkish Delight in Plain, Pistachio, Hazelnut and Rose from a company that’s been making them for over 200 years!

Assorted Turkish Delight (Pistachio, Hazelnut, Plain, Rose) by Haci Bekir 17oz

Liberty Orchards Aplets & CotletsBut if you want something a bit less exotic, try Liberty Orchard brands. I was thrilled when I first went to the Northwest and found that Turkish Delight had been Americanized with apples, apricots and walnuts.

Liberty Orchards Aplets & Cotlets, 12-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)

And when my family went to Hawaii, we found Liberty Orchards there too. This time with Tropical Fruit & Macadamias! No I don’t work for Liberty Orchards, but I sure wish I did!

Liberty Orchards Hawaiian Fruit Delights, Tropical Fruit & Macadamias

Liberty Orchards Hawaiian Fruit Delights, Tropical Fruit & Macadamias, 8-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 4)

| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Christina Gleason @ Cutest Kid Ever April 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I did not like Turkish Delight when I tried it. Maybe it’s the powdered sugar that killed it for me. Jellybeans win, hands down.

Ali April 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I LOVE Turkish Delight. Pistachio, specifically, is my favorite. But I had NO IDEA it was the predecessor to jelly beans. I feel so enlightened.

Cie April 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Neither did I Ali, until I started researching 🙂

JO May 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

Did you bring me the appetite. It’s like you wrote today with all the imitations, we should really look for the original. Thanks.

jo –

Cie May 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

Imitations? Of what? Lokum is centuries old. It’s not an imitation of anything.

david klein May 2, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Interesting article….thank you. This is David Klein with an update to my life. In 1976 when Jelly Belly was getting started it was Marinus van Dam who created the formula for this fine product. Two of his sons are now working with us to create a new generation of jelly beans. These are called David’s Signature beyond gourmet jelly beans. They will revolutionize the jelly bean business and will be introduced in a few weeks at the big Chicago candy and snack show. Thank you

Sandra Foyt May 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

Did you say candy and snack show? Oh, I would love to go to THAT!

Cie May 3, 2011 at 8:18 am

Feel free to send a bag of those new Jelly Bellies to Albany Kid, David!
Sandra and I will be happy to taste them 😀
(and of course, write up a review)

david klein May 3, 2011 at 8:47 am

Good Morning…..the show is in Chicago May 24-May 26….Would love to have you gals visit us there.

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