SARATOGA: Candy pigs ring in the new year with a crack

He took out a small advertisement in the paper telling folks the Peppermint Pig would again be available at his candy shop on Caroline Street Christmas Eve morning, 1988. When he came to work, he said there was a mob of people waiting for the store to open. The 60 pink pigs he made were not nearly enough to meet the demand that day, but the Peppermint Pig was again part of the holiday tradition for thousands of families, many of whom introduced the pig to the younger generation.

"One of my favorite quotes from that day is from an elderly gentleman who brought his grandson with him. He said, 'When I got my first pig I was the little hand holding the big hand. Now I am the big hand holding the little hand,'" Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is a stickler for tradition. He will make 130,000 pigs this year, but rather than mass-produce, he cooks the mix in teakettles that yield just five pigs each. If they are cooked in anything larger, the pigs, known among candy makers as candy glass, would not break right, he said. And rather than use an extract or flavorings, he, in the tradition of the candy makers a century ago, who did not have the luxury of extracts, uses pure peppermint oil -- though it does not help the bottom line. Seven gallons of peppermint extract cost between $70 and $80. The same amount of peppermint oil, harvested exclusively for his business, costs about $750, he said.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people would not know the difference, but if I used an extract some of the old timers would come down here and swat me with something," he said with a chuckle. "Because of them, and out of respect for my predecessors, we use oil."

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