"We use peppermint oil. Most modern day candy is made with extracts and flavorings, which are radically less expensive. Most of my critics were people who had them as children and if I tried to slide by a lesser product, I would have heard about it, so I knew we had to make them with oil and I still make them with oil," said Fitzgerald.
The candy shop will go through two dozen large jugs of peppermint oil each season at $750 apiece. Opting for an alternative would cut that cost by about 70 percent, but as Fitzgerald explained, it wouldn't be the same.
"We don't scrimp. Our oil is made for us specifically, so from the way it's made to the way it tastes, you won't find another piece of peppermint candy made anywhere in the world that's like it," said Fitzgerald.
Only a few people know how to make an actual peppermint pig, but many contribute to its success by shrink wrapping it, packaging it and selling it, all on site. Fitzgerald said the homegrown feel of the whole operation is special, but so is the notion that he's creating one of the few Christmas traditions that originated in America.
"Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes, it's all great, but the origins are in Europe. Peppermint pigs were never made in Europe, only here in Saratoga County, so it's nice we've been able to revive it," said Fitzgerald. "One Christmas night, there could be 100,000 pigs shattered all over. I make a joke with the kids that if they listen real hard, around 5 p.m. they'll hear it."
The pigs are sold in three sizes: small, medium and large. The medium size is the most popular and comes with a soft bag and miniature hammer for $13.95. Saratoga Sweets also sells Pig Poop, Pig Puddle and Pigsy Dust, because, as Fitzgerald pointed out, accidents happen.
"We basically sell everything. When they break we sell the pieces as Pig Poop. Pig Puddle is mixed with white chocolate and Pigsy Dust is very fine and can be sprinkled on cupcakes or hot cocoa," said Fitzgerald.
The peppermint pig is undoubtedly the most sought after holiday product the store sells, but almond butter crunch is a close second, and this year it will cook up 150,000 pounds of it.
Saratoga Sweets is located at 1618 Route 9 in Halfmoon and everything peppermint pig, from actual candy to plush versions, is available online at saratogasweets.com.