It’s something your parents or grandparents may remember well – sticky and gooey taffy being made right before your eyes. You can actually still witness the century-old tradition right here in Galveston at one of the island’s institutions – La King’s Confectionery.
When stepping through La King’s Strand storefront, it’s like stepping back in time. You’ll see a 1920s-style soda fountain that serves milkshakes, malts, ice cream sodas, splits, floats, sundaes and more. The confectionery also sells more than 50 candies including peanut brittle, pecan pralines, chocolate and fudge. But perhaps most traditional are the bite-sized pieces of taffy in baskets and small boxes, with flavors including licorice, peppermint, watermelon, molasses, lemon and root beer.
On weekends and throughout the summer, the store and soda fountain holds frequent demonstrations on how taffy is made, where candy makers pound huge slabs of the sticky concoction, and after which comes the somewhat tedious process of shaping, cutting and wrapping. And then, they toss out pieces to bystanders to try the freshly made tasty treats right off the machine – something the kids especially enjoy.
The process of making the 40 pound taffy slabs involves weighing sugar and salt and then adding syrup and water. The mixture is boiled and then milk and egg whites are added. Once it’s hardened a bit, a small piece is pulled out to which color is added for striping. The slab is then placed on a machine that pulls and twists the candy, helping it stay fluffy. Despite the name, salt water taffy is not made with seawater but its ingredients do include salt and water.
According to La King’s website, the store’s tradition started in 1927 when Jimmy King learned from the “Old World” candy makers and began his craft in Houston. His son Jack moved the story to the Strand and started the old fashioned confectionery using his family’s 19th century methods and recipes, as well as traditional equipment. Today, La King's also makes and serves "Purity" ice cream which is Texas' first ice cream manufacturer, founded in 1889 on Galveston Island.
So next time you’re looking for something sweet and truly Galveston, La King’s is the place to go.
La King's Confectionery