Welcome back! After yesterday's multiple Tales of the Christmas Pickle (any of which may or may not be true), we're back with ANOTHER holiday tradition, THIS ONE a lot easier to track down and substantiate.
Today's story goes back to the 1880's and the town of Saratoga Springs, New York. A city now known primarily for its horse racing, back then it was a lavish resort town with exclusive hotels and casinos, a 'go-to' place for the New York elite. The imported European top chefs at the hotels had a holiday tradition of making marzipan pigs during the holidays as symbols of good luck (like this jolly fellow to your left). When marzipan became harder to produce, Mr. Jim Mangay came up with the substitution that is still in use today: the Peppermint Pig!
The Peppermint Pig is made of three key ingredients: peppermint oil, sugar and corn syrup. It has been in production over the years since the 1880's, with a shutdown during World War II (due to sugar rationing). Many of the older residents of Saratoga Springs and their families remembered the Pigs and spoke fondly of them to candy maker Mike Fitzgerald, who resurrected them in 1998 at his store, Saratoga Sweets. He made an initial run of 60 Pigs, wondering if anyone would be interested. They sold out immediately and thus began the resurgence of the annual making of the Pigs, with over 130,000 made each year now and shipped around the world.
But what about the tradition itself, you ask? Well, as related in the NY Daily News:
"In the old days, the pig was placed on the Christmas dinner table. Father would wrap it in a napkin and crack it with the steel rod used to sharpen knives so the family could share the sweet-tasting bits, Fitzgerald said."
Today's version of the tradition doesn't involve anything as drastic as a steel rod - as a recent article in the new York Times illustrates:
"The Peppermint Pig, a local hard-candy confection about the size of a pig’s foot, has become an unusual holiday tradition around the world — its popularity rooted in peppermint and a nickel-plated hammer. As the candy pig is passed around the dinner table, each person uses the hammer to break a piece off, and then shares a bit of good fortune from the year just passed, with hopes of good luck and prosperity for the new year ahead."
For more on the history of the Pigs, and more pictures on the process that goes into the making of them, check out these two articles:
If YOU would like to make this a holiday tradition in your home (and who doesn't want good luck for the upcoming year?), here's where you can get your own Pig and hammer!
The link above is for the ORIGINAL Pigs from the Saratoga Sweets and Candy Store - if they're sold out, don't fret - there are many other retailers who make their own versions, as well.
Coming tomorrow: We give the Devil his due ... well, not really. But we DO celebrate the Hollywood premiere of our K.A.C. mascot, KRAMPUS! Hopefully after this, he's not going to be too big-headed to appear in our pages!