Thought to be the first sweet to be sold by weight, jelly beans are small candies the size and shape of a bean. The outer shell is hard and sugary whilst the inside is firm and chewy. Available in an almost unlimited array of colours and flavours, they have attained cult status. Popular all year round, these rainbow nuggets are a favourite alternative for chocolate at Easter.
Where do jelly beans come from?
As American as apple pie, they are believed to be the love child of sugared almonds and Turkish delight. Although said to have been around since the late 1800s, and were included in the dictionary in 1905, they gained popular recognition in the 1930s. Marketed for Easter, because of their egg like shape and bright colours, they gradually became a lolly shop favourite.
Jelly beans were the first candy to be sold by weight. You could have as many or as few as you liked – hence the term penny sweet.
How are jelly beans made?
There is quite a procedure involved in the creation of these little sweets and it is similar to the sugared almonds we mentioned earlier. It takes a whole week to make a jelly bean.
Liquid sugar is heated to just under 180C and then mixed with starch. This is poured into moulds. Left to dry, it forms the chewy centre. Next, the nascent beans are taken from the moulds and given a steam bath followed by a new coat of liquid sugar. From there, it is into the spinning machine that creates the hard exterior. Colour and flavour are sprayed onto the continually revolving beans. Next, whilst still spinning, a sugar coat is applied. Granulated sugar, not liquid this time, is sprayed over the surface until the desired coating has been achieved. It is a gradual process of building layers of sugar over the soft interior.
Finally, the newly formed confections are sprayed with hot syrup and wax (or that non-vegan confectioners glaze we were talking about) to add the final polish. Once dry they are ready for packaging and their journey into the world.
Do jelly beans have gelatine?
Surprisingly, jelly beans are not made from gelatine. They actually have more similarity to toffee than to jelly.
Are jelly beans vegan?
The lack of gelatine does not however mean they are vegan. They may contain beeswax. Or they may contain confectioners glaze, which often has dairy in it. White sugar is often under question by the vegan community as it may have been processed using animal products.
Are jelly beans gluten free?
Again it is a question of derivatives. Usually the ingredients will not include anything with gluten in it, although check the label to see which starches are used as thickeners. Be aware also that some syrups may have wheat derivatives involved in their processing.
Are jelly beans fat-free?
Yup. No fat here.
How much sugar is in jelly beans?
They are however, as many fat-free things turn out to be, made almost entirely of sugar. Which is kind of okay seeing as they are um…sweets. Y’know things eaten, in moderation, for fun.
Do black jelly beans contain licorice?
They can do. Often the black ones turn out to be purple and taste of some kind of berry. Or grape. Sometimes they are actually black and taste like licorice. Usually this involves aniseed as oppose to licorice, but sometimes they will contain licorice. We explain about licorice in more detail here…
What flavour are white jelly beans?
A bonus question. Its up for debate what flavour the white ones are, and they do differ across manufacturers. Sometimes it is coconut or vanilla. Often they have that general flavour of white sweets, with that familiar yet unrecognisable quality. Sweet with a sharp edge of acid, that could be lemonade but tastes nothing like lemons? Turns out it could be pear.
How many jelly beans in a kilo?
And finally, guess the number of jelly beans. Not so you can cheat at the next school fair but it will come in handy when you simply can’t imagine what a kilo of jelly beans is IRL. So that you know how many lollies for a lolly buffet, or how long you can reasonably be expected to make a big bag last.
Clearly, they are all different. But your average jelly bean that looks like a baked bean is about 1g. So in a kilo you can expect a thousand jelly beans. That’s enough for a 100 people to have 10 each.
Or 10 people to have 100 each. Its a free country. Just about.