Sassafras Candy

Written by Sarah Provost
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The sassafras tree has an amazing number of uses. The American colonists learned to make sassafras tea from the Native Americans. They also made their bedsteads from its wood because the aromatic oils kept away bedbugs and other pests. The boiled leaves made a tonic that was considered sovereign for everything from spring fever to syphilis. It was exported to England in the 1600s, and became such an important export that the British made colonial charters dependent upon the continued supply of sassafras.

Sassafras was also combined with molasses to make root beer, though since 1960 the primary oil has been removed because of health concerns. The powdered bark of the sassafras tree is called file, and is used to thicken soups and gumbos. Sassafras tea, sassafras jelly, sassafras pudding and sassafras syrup are still found, especially in the Southern states.

Glass Candy and Stick Candy

The most common use for sassafras today is in candy. "Glass candy" is made by peeling the bark from sassafras roots, pulverizing it, and adding it to a boiled sugar and corn syrup mixture. The concoction is cooked to 300 degrees, then spread thinly on a buttered cookie sheet to harden. It can also be found in stick candy form. That version is made by pouring the boiled tincture into molds.

The flavor of sassafras is both citrusy and spicy. It reminds some people of a combination of orange and cinnamon flavors. Now mostly sold by "old time" candy makers, it is a refreshing and delicious treat that deserves wider distribution.


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