Humbugs are a traditional hard boiled sweet available in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They are usually flavoured with peppermint and striped in two different colours (often black and white). Humbugs are typically cylinders with rounded ends wrapped in a twist of cellophane, or else pinched cylinders with a 90-degree turn between one end and the other (shaped like a pyramid with rounded edges), loose in a bag. Records of humbugs exist from as early as the 1820s and they are referred to in the 1863 book Sylvia's Lovers as being a food from the North.
The name of the sweet is not related to the phrase "Bah, humbug" derived from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. That expression implies a general dissatisfaction with the Christmas season. However, offering humbugs around Christmas time is now seen by some as humorous or ironic, and was featured in an episode of Blackadder in this manner. While awaiting the appearance of a villain in the "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" episode of "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" series, Jeremy Brett as Holmes admonishes Edward Hardwicke's Dr. Watson, while offering Colin Jeavons' Inspector Lestrade one of these sweets with, "Watson, this is no time for humbugs!"
A mixture of sugar, glycerine, colour and flavouring is heated to 145°C. This is then poured out and stretched and folded many times. The stripes originate from a smaller piece of coloured mixture which is folded in to the main mixture. The mixture is finally rolled in to a long, thin cylinder and sliced into segments.
A similar sweet is "bulls-eye" which has black and white stripes like a humbug but is spherical like an aniseed ball. These are peppermint flavoured and are also known as bullets in the UK as they are similar in size to smoothbore musket balls.
Another popular mint in the UK, also striped black and white with a mint centre. The name derives from Everton Football Club, as it was first produced by Old Mother Noblett, a local woman, in the 19th century for fans on their way to the matches. It was later sold to Liverpool company Barker & Dobson, and is now distributed nationally under the Bassett's brand.
- Davidson, Alan; Davidson, Jane; Saberi, Helen (2006). Jaine, Tom, ed. The Oxford companion to food. OUP Oxford. ISBN 0-19-280681-5.
- Ayto, John (1990). The Glutton's Glossary. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02647-4.
- Alex Renton (10 September 2009). "Humbugs, mints, gums and our Top 20 sweets". The Times. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
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