Squirrel Nut Zippers

Squirrel Nut Zippers

The other bizarre candy that I bought at Michael's Crafts yesterday is a bag of Squirrel Nut Zippers. Like so many people, I was entranced by Squirrel Nut Zippers (the band) in the 1990s. I vaguely knew that their name came from a candy (I probably heard it in an NPR interview or something). But for some reason, I thought a Squirrel Nut Zipper was something like a turtle or a Goo Goo Cluster. A blob of chocolate, nuts, and maybe caramel.

(What can I say? We didn't have Wikipedia back then.)

And now that I have checked the aforementioned Wikipedia, I find that I have been wrong all these years, and that the band named themselves after "a headline that ran in a local newspaper during the 30s." A little bit more investigation turned up the factoid that "nut zippers is a southern term for a variety of old bootleg moonshine." It seems that one night a man drunk on moonshine climbed up a tree and refused to come down, thus prompting the paper to run a story with the headline "Squirrel Nut Zipper."

Anyway, back to the candy. I was surprised when I picked up the yellow and orange bag of Squirrel Nut Zippers. I found that it contained what looked for all the world like caramels, or maybe Chick-O-Sticks. This wasn't what I was expecting - and I was surprised just now to learn that thing about the moonshine - and overall, this has been a surprisingly confusing candy experience.

Candy: It Can Get Really Confusing.

It turns out that "Squirrel nut caramel" is a sort of generic term for a caramel with nuts in it. Frankly, I didn't know until just now that this was a thing, caramel with nuts in it. Squirrel Brands Caramels originally produced two nut caramels: Chocolate Squirrel and Squirrel Nut, a vanilla flavor.

All that confusion and history and intrigue, and basically what we have here is your standard vanilla caramel with peanut bits inside it. The peanut bits are ground fairly fine, which is a blessing. I like the peanut-y taste they impart to the caramel.

I am less enthralled by the gritty texture, which reminded me at first of the kind of peanut butter that hippies eat. The kind you have to stir up with your knife. The kind you can grind yourself in bulk at the co-op. You know the stuff I mean. I respect people who eat it, but I never would. (I have texture issues with food.)

One thing to like about Squirrel Nut Zippers is that they are packaged in waxed paper. If you are (like me) accustomed to picking your caramels out of a plastic wrap, you will find the waxed paper experience far more pleasant. The caramel releases better from the waxed paper, and it's that much less plastic in the world.

And aside from being historical in and of themselves, Squirrel Nut Zippers are produced by NECCO, which is one of our country's last remaining independent candy producers. Respek!