I'm really enjoying the Gibralter rock candy that was in Rue's giveaway parcel! I expected that it would come divided into small individual pieces but no, when you open the package you find a single, large, rectangular slab of rock hard candy. To break it, I tried hitting it with the handle of a knife. Nothing. Then a cleaver, which worked better. Finally a hammer, which worked best. Once in your mouth, the rock candy melts easily and deliciously. There are two flavours -- lemon and peppermint -- and they linger long after the candy itself is gone.
Gibralters have a very interesting history, too. Apparently they are the first candy made and sold commercially in the United States. In 1806, an English woman named Mrs. Spencer was shipwrecked on her way to America and ended up destitute with her young son in Salem, Massachusetts. When her neighbours learned that Mrs. Spencer knew how to make candy, they all chipped in and bought her a barrel of sugar so she could go into business. Her Gibralter rock candy was a huge success for this single working Mom who was ahead of her time!
According to Wikipedia, an 1893 book called Gibralters a "Salem institution" and described the candy as follows:
The Gibraltar . . . is a white and delicate candy, flavored with lemon or peppermint, soft as cream at one stage of its existence, but capable of hardening into a consistency so stony and so unutterably flinty-hearted that it is almost a libel upon the rock whose name it bears. The Gibraltar is the aristocrat of Salem confectionery. It gazes upon chocolate and sherbet and says: "Before you were, I was. After you are not, I shall be."
The book's author says the lemon flavor is preferred by youth, and the peppermint by the elderly, and quotes a "charming old Salem dame" as saying "I know I must be growing old, because a peppermint Gibraltar is so comforting to me."
Today, Gibralters are still made in Salem, using the original recipe, by Ye Olde Pepper Companie Ltd.