No movie scene about s’mores is quite as good as this one from Sandlot.
Ham: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?
Smalls: Some more of what?
Ham: No, do you wanna s’more?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham: You’re killing me Smalls!
As the weather warms up, sitting around campfires with my friends is becoming more frequent, and thus, so is my consumption of delicious, gooey marshmallows. Then I got to thinking, What exactly is a marshmallow?
The funniest thing is that during my research, I found this really detailed study guide all about marshmallows: http://www.enotes.com/marshmallow-reference/marshmallow. If you don’t want to read all that (and who could blame you?), I’ll summarize the parts that I found especially interesting.
1. The first marshmallows came from a plant. Originally, they came from the marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) plant, which is an herb used to soothe sore throats. They would make marshmallows by boiling the root pulp of the plant with sugar until it thickened. Then they would strain and cool the mixture.
2. The Egyptians used it as candy. As far back as 2000 B.C., Egyptians mixed the root with honey, and it was a treat only given to gods and royalty.
3. The marsh mallow root has medicinal qualities. Uses include a laxative, a poultice to treat inflammation, treating chest pains, soothing sore throats and coughs, and as an ointment. Despite these many uses, the root was only used on an individual scale and wasn’t mass-produced. Until the mid-19th century, only the wealthy tasted even the candy.
4. Modern-day marshmallows came from France. Turns out the French have done something to benefit all of us – they created marshmallows! However, the original process was expensive and took a long time to create each marshmallow because they used a candy mold for each individual marshmallow. The marsh mallow root sap was used to hold together the egg whites, corn syrup, and water.
5. Marshmallows were mass-produced with the introduction of the starch mogul system. I think “mogul” might be one of my favorite words (even though I always roll through moguls when skiing). Anyway…the new system, invented in about 1900, included a machine that automatically filled molds and then compressed them. Marshmallows were then mass-produced and sold as penny candy.
6. History of the marshmallow in the U.S. In 1955, there were about 35 manufacturers of marshmallows in the United States. Now, there are only three. They use a process called the extrusion process, which has lessened manufacturing time to about 1 hour to make a batch of marshmallows.
7. Basic ingredients of a marshmallow. So what is a marshmallow? The basic ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, corn starch, modified food starch, gum, water, gelatin, and/or whipped egg whites. In a nutshell? Sugar and something to make it stick together 🙂
You can make your own marshmallows at home! I haven’t tried it yet, but here are a few different sites that give recipes:
Doesn’t seem too hard! But maybe a little messy. If you try making them, let me know how it goes! Happy s’more roasting!