I'd like to be able to say that Sour Patch Kids and I have a long and storied past, rife with lust, passion, and betrayal, the highest highs and the lowest lows, but I can't. Our relationship has been pretty much smooth sailing since the very first time I stuck one of the sugar and citric acid-coated freaky looking kids in my mouth, the initial pucker shocking in its tartness, but quickly subsumed by the sweet, sweet artificial flavor of love.
Thing is, I don't even like candy all that much. But put Sour Patch Kids in front of me, and I'll eat them until they're all gone or I've passed out (whichever comes first). Part of my love of 'em might stem from my childhood infatuation with both Cabbage Patch Kids (anyone else have the video game?), and their far cooler cousins, the Garbage Pail Kids.*
*When I was thirteen, I found out that a full first edition set of Garbage Pail kids with twins of each card was worth a few hundred dollars to collectors. I immediately ran to my shoebox collection only to discover that the one care missing from my collection, Adam Bomb—the very first Garbage Pail Kid, no less—was firmly adhered to my childhood bed frame. Doh!
Ever wonder why Sour Patch Kids don't look anything like kids? It's because they were actually first designed and marketed to be aliens. All through the 70's they were sold under the name Mars Men.
Suck off the sour sandy coating and you may find that they taste remarkably similar to Swedish Fish. Guess what: they're the exact same candy, simply pumped into a different mold and finished with a sour coating. If somebody were to sell bags of the sour coating that collects on the bottom of a pack of Sour Patch kids, I'd buy it. Just think of how many foods and candies could be improved by a sprinkling of it?
Of course, Sour Patch Kids aren't the only sour candy these days. Sour Straws, Sour Skittles, Super Lemon, there are dozens of'em, but I they're still the original and the best.
Do you have a favorite sour candy?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.