In the riverside town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, sweet lovers still speak with reverence about an almost 140-year-old candy that references an animal skeleton. Chicken Bones, a vibrant pink candy made of pulled sugar, with a cinnamon-flavored outer layer and a bittersweet chocolate filling, hold high regard in Canadian Christmas traditions, where it appears as a common stocking stuffer, or as a staple in grandma’s candy dish.
Only the most experienced confectioners at Ganong Brothers Limited, the oldest candy manufacturers in Canada (in business since 1873), get to work on Chicken Bones. An American named Frank Sparhawk created the first Chicken Bone at the Ganong factory in 1885, and the candy is made by nearly the same process today. The cinnamon-flavored sugar syrup is first cooked in a large copper pot until it gets to a sticky, chewy consistency. Confectioners roll the sticky syrup out, dye it red, then pull, press, and knead it by hand. The mixture is then strung onto a pulling machine where the sugar is stretched until it takes on the distinctive bright pink color of the chicken bones. Expert hands then add the chocolate filling and pull, stretch, and roll to make one giant Chicken Bone, which is then fed to a machine that cuts out the individual pieces.
Chicken Bones are a polarizing candy, with haters and devotees in equal measure. The bigger point of contention, though, might be around how best to consume them. Should you bite into the crunchy bones and get the spicy-bittersweet flavor combination of cinnamon, sugar, and slightly grainy dark chocolate all at once? Or, should you suck on the outer bone so your tongue tingles with the heat of the cinnamon until you get to the mellow sweetness of the chocolate marrow? Either way, for Canadians on the East Coast, the pink-tongued enjoyment of too many chicken bones is a Christmas tradition that has stood the test of time.
Need to Know
Other sweet manufacturers have capitalized on the success of Chicken Bones. In the United States, the Idaho Candy Company makes their Chicken Bones with a peanut butter filling and a coconut crust, and they look quite like deep-fried chicken fingers. Chick-o-stick is a similar Texan counterpart, made by the Atkinson Candy Company.
In Canada, Robertson’s Candy and Confectionery has been making their own chicken bones, modeled on the Ganong originals.
Where to Try It
Ganong Chocolatier Retail73 Milltown Blvd, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, E3L 2H1, Canada
Many Ganong favorites are available at this St. Stephen shop.