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Food

When it comes to candy, Cincinnati has a sweet history

Author Dann Woellert in front of the Traveling Cincinnati Candy Museum, a collection of historic Cincinnati candy containers from confectioners who have come and gone.
Dann Woellert
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Courtesy
Author Dann Woellert in front of the Traveling Cincinnati Candy Museum, a collection of historic Cincinnati candy containers from confectioners who have come and gone. He's holding an axe paperweight celebrating a formerly big candy day – President’s Day - from Cincinnati’s former New Era Confectionery.

At one time, the Queen City had just as many confectioners as brewers.

The sugary candy many have come to hate was invented in Cincinnati — candy corn. But so was the opera cream and the French chew.

At one time, the Queen City had just as many confectioners as brewers, author Dann Woellert points out in his book, Cincinnati Candy: A Sweet History.

“In the 1880s, it was largely Germanic immigrant confectioners," he says. "They had brought their know-how from Germany and France and sort of Central Europe. Later on, just like Cincinnati chili, there was a large Greek population.”

He says that’s why chili restaurants serve chocolate mints.

Doscher’s Candies created the French chew, the only chewy nougat candy. The company was Downtown for 50 years and has since moved to Newtown. In 1898, the Goelitz Confectionary Company came up with candy corn. Woellert calls it the “devils ear wax,” because he can’t stand it.

Most chocolate makers in Cincinnati have a version of the opera cream. Did you know the city was the origin of the bubble gum baseball card?

Makes sense, says Woellert, because in the 1880s Cincinnati was a city of confectioners. In 1884, it teamed with other candy makers in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to create the National Confectioners Association.

Google "Cincinnati candy" or "Cincinnati chocolate stores" and you will find dozens. One of them is Maverick Chocolate, with locations at Findlay Market and Rookwood.

For Valentine’s Day, Maverick sells a lot of truffles. Owner Paul Picton credits his wife for the truffles. As the chocolatier, he sources cocoa beans from all over the world. He says it’s fun coming up with new flavors.

Maverick 1.jpg
Ann Thompson
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WVXU
Maverick truffles

“Some of it is looking what else is going on in the market, if there are new flavor profiles that we’re seeing," he says. "Otherwise, it’s things that we think sound really yummy.”

Woellert loves going to candy stores. “I visited Fawn Candy, their basement candy factory on the West Side, which has a ball cream beater which makes the filling for opera creams. They have a chocolate dipping conveyor line. It’s a little like the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.”

Look for Cincinnati to continue its chocolate presence. Woellert points out a new candy store in Mariemont that originated in an Israeli Kibbutz — Ilan’s.