In 1900, a young baker by the name of Salvatore Ferrara arrived in New York from Naples, Italy. Eight years later he had journeyed halfway across America where he opened a bakery in Chicago’s “Little Italy” neighborhood and made pastries and candy coated Jordan almonds.

Originally, Salvatore Ferrara started selling pastries until he saw his candy was outselling them.

One day Sal noticed that the candies were selling much better than his pastries, so he got together with his brothers-in-law, Salvatore Buffardi and Anello Pagano, and he built himself a candy factory.  Over a hundred years later, Ferrara Candy Company is still in business, and though you might not recognize the company, with names like Chuckles, Jujyfruits, Laffy Taffy, Lemonheads, Nerds, and Now and Later, you’re sure to recognize their products.

The Ferrara Candy Company also invented one of the hottest (both figuratively and literally) candies to ever hit the candy market –the Atomic Fire Ball!  It’s also the subject of today’s nostalgia candy blog post.

Not that’s HOT!

Ferrara unleashed the first Atomic Fireballs on America in 1954. It was in the middle of the Atomic Age when the world had witnessed firsthand both the horrors and the hopes of the atom. Back then, both scientists and sages promised that everything from automobiles to your electric toothbrush would one day be powered by the atom.

The Atomic Fireball was invented back when the atom was our friend.

And, indeed, atoms meant power, so it’s really no surprise that Ferrara would call their cinnamon jawbreaker the “Atomic Fireball” because these little red candies really are powerful hot!

Just how hot are they? Well, according to Ferrara, Atomic Fireballs rate 3500 on the Scoville scale, the same scale that’s used to measure the spiciness of peppers. That means Atomic Fireball candies are hot as jalapeños!

Now you’re probably thinking, “Wow, I didn’t know that cinnamon was actually that spicy.” And you’d be right. It’s not the cinnamon that makes Atomic Fireballs so hot. It’s the capsaicin!

That’s right! Capsaicin!  The same active component found in chili peppers that produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact with is added to Atomic Fireballs to give them that nice fiery atomic ball kick.

A worker at Ferrara using the hot panning technique to make candy

Atomic Fireballs start out as a single grain of sugar in a process called hot panning where sugar, syrup, and flavors  like cinnamon and capsaicin, added layer after layer – a process that takes up to two weeks and a hundred layers for the bigger sized Atomic Fireballs. However, there’s no need to worry about them running out anytime soon – Ferrara Pan makes over 15,000,000 Atomic Fireballs every week.

Can you see that grain of sugar that all of this fiery goodness started from?

Do you remember a while back when told you how pecans were the first nut on the moon? (If not, you can read about it here.) Well, it seems that besides pecans, NASA also has a thing for Atomic Fireballs. In fact, they’re the Mission Control Center’s “Console Candy of Choice!”

It all started back around 1988 when a bubbly girl with hair as red as an Atomic Fireball named Karen used to hand out fireballs with some of the papers she used to reproduce for the space agency’s MCC. Apparently, the Flight Controllers loved them and often gave them to other employees as a reward for a job well done.  Others say the candy helped them stay awake when working the Midnight to 7AM shift.  All the while, the only link in the Atomic Fireball supply chain was Karen the bubbly redhead from repro.

“Uh, Houston, we have a problem. We’re almost out of Atomic Fireballs.”

So, beloved was the Atomic Fireball by NASA employees at this point that the Orbit Flight Dynamics Officers (FDO) for the STS-30 mission ordered a whole box of Atomic Fireballs for the FDO console in 1989. Since then, the console has never been without a box of Atomic Fireballs nearby.

To honor the Atomic Fireball tradition, Susan Helm was the first astronaut to take one of the spicy candies into space on the STS-64 mission on September 9, 1994.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helm was the first to take an Atomic Fireball into space.
(No that’s not it in this picture. That’s her helmet.)

So there you have it – first pecans and then, Atomic Fireballs.  It must be really cool working for NASA.

And speaking of working- Stuckey’s is also working hard to help you have an out of this world holiday season this year. The next time you’re out Christmas shopping, why not stop in your nearest Stuckey’s location and pick up a few of our Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls (now available in the “Yule Log-Sized” 10 inch version – our biggest yet!) They make great stocking stuffers along with just about all of our Stuckey’s merchandise like our fine pecan candies, flavored nuts, and our branded t-shirts, hats and mugs. And while you’re decking out your halls, don’t forget to add our one-of-a-kind Stuckey’s Christmas ornament to your tree this year. After all, we’re practically family now anyway.

If you happen to be living in an area that doesn’t have a Stuckey’s yet, then head over to our website to find out how you can have all of Stuckey’s pecan-y goodness delivered right to your front door. Visit stuckey’s.com for more info.