Making Our Chocolate
Step 1: Preparing the Chocolate
Although we are unable to offer public tours of the Esther Price factory, you can see what goes on behind the scenes right here on our web site.
Esther Price uses over two tons of pure chocolate, both light and dark, during a typical day of making candy. The chocolate is first melted in the melting vats before it is pumped through special insulated stainless steel tubes, to the tempering unit. Here, the chocolate is kept at a steady and controlled 88 degrees. This process is called tempering and it is what gives the chocolate an appealing color, sheen, and longevity.
After being properly tempered, the chocolate is pumped to an enrober and a bottomer, which apply chocolate to all sides of the candy. All this takes place under temperature-controlled conditions, circulating the chocolate back to the melting vat when necessary so that every piece of Esther Price candy is just as appealing to the eye as it is to the taste.
But before the chocolate can be applied to the candy the centers have to be made, which is the next step in our tour.
Step 2: Making the Centers
Esther Price produces a variety of flavorful centers: Butter Cream, Chocolate Cream, Coconut Cream, Caramel, Caramel Pecan, Peanut Butter Cream, and our famous Cherry Cordial, just to name a few. All our creams are made from a secret butter cream recipe which Esther herself perfected, and it remains unchanged even today. If there is one thing that is truly unique about Esther Price candies, this is it. The sweet and savory taste of an Esther Price butter cream is simply unmistakable, and is one that keeps people coming back for more.
We prepare the butter cream in 60 pound batches and on special gas-fired burners, then cool and mix it to an even consistency. This batch will make 120 pounds of candy. Once the butter cream is prepared it is used by itself, or mixed with coconut and other flavors, or hand-folded with all-natural peanut butter, or hand-rolled around orchard-fresh maraschino cherries, for some of the most distinctive centers of Esther Price candies.
We also prepare our own caramel, which is used alone for our caramel centers, or with fresh-roasted peanuts, pecans, cashews, or other nuts to make our always popular caramel and nut mixtures.
When used by itself, the butter cream is dropped onto a conveyor belt using the extruder. The extruder is an excellent example of the engineering advancements that Jim Day and Ralph Schmidt have brought to Esther Price Candies since their arrival in 1976. Before this machine was developed, each candy center had to be cut into bite-size pieces and placed onto the conveyor belt by hand before it could be coated with chocolate. This job required up to 14 people to complete, depending on the type of center to be coated. And after the candy was coated, each piece would have to be hand-strung which required another 4-6 people. Stringing is the process used to put distinctive designs on the candy to identify which type of center it is. Now, with the extruder, the cream centers are automatically cut into bite-size pieces and placed on the conveyor in precisely spaced rows. This precision spacing allows each piece to be strung by an automatic stringer instead of by hand, and it allows more candy to fit on the conveyor belt. So a job that once took some 16-20 people to complete now takes only 2-4, and twice as much candy is made in the same amount of time. This has helped Esther Price Candies keep up with increasing demand by freeing valuable workers to do other more important work, and to keep the price of our candy more affordable.
Even with all the engineering advancements of candy making today, we realize there are some things about Esther Price candies that just can't be improved. Take for instance our famous hand-rolled Cherry Cordials. We start with ripened maraschino cherries and hand-roll each one individually with Esther Price's pure butter cream. After being coated with chocolate, a natural transformation takes place between the cherry and the cream, which produces what is arguably the world's finest-tasting Cherry Cordial. Don't believe it? Just try one and see for yourself. We don't think that this delicate flavor and consistency can be duplicated by any machine. That's why we roll each one by hand. We know it's worth the extra effort.
The same goes for our delicious Peanut Butter Cream candy. We could mix our fresh-ground peanut butter and butter cream by machine, but we don't. We hand-fold the mixture so that the peanut butter is enveloped in butter cream, roll it out in single strips and cut the strips by hand into bite-size pieces. That's a lot of extra work but it's the only way to ensure that our Peanut Butter Cream candy will be moist and smooth, the way you like it.
Now that all of the centers are ready to be coated with chocolate, let's go on to the next step in our tour.
Step 3: Coating the Centers
A large conveyor links together the last few pieces of equipment through which the prepared centers must pass in order to become the Esther Price candies you recognize. They include one or two bottomers, an enrober, a cooling tunnel, and of course the belts which convey the candy between each unit.
All our candy centers are placed on special conveyor belts over refrigerated cold plates, which help to firm the chocolate after it is applied by the bottomer and the enrober. The bottomer wells up tempered chocolate through a stainless steel belt and completely covers the bottom of the candy.
Another refrigerated conveyor moves the bottomed candy to the enrober, which finishes the top and sides. Once it is completely chocolate-covered, the candy passes through a cooling tunnel, which will gradually lower the temperature of the chocolate so that the candy can be handled for storage. All Esther Price candies are stored in a temperature-controlled environment for several days until each piece is an even 50 degrees through to the center.
After this aging process is finished, the candy is ready to be packaged for sale, which is the final step in our tour.
Step 4: Packaging the Candy
Because Esther Price candies are still made the old-fashioned way, sizes of the individual pieces may vary. This means that every box of our candy must be packed by hand. But, we don't mind at all. In fact we feel that hand-packing gives us one more opportunity to check the quality of each piece of candy we make. And that's important to us because the first thing we pack into a box of our candy is quality. This hand-tied red ribbon is your guarantee that this box of candy contains all the homemade goodness and taste that made Esther Price and her candy famous.
This ends our tour of the famous Esther Price Candy kitchen, but it's not the end of our story. Every day we're busy making good old-fashioned candy for people who enjoy good taste, homemade quality, and traditional value... people like you. So remember Esther Price candies for yourself or for someone special as a gift for every occasion.