The Peppermint Pig is a peculiar tradition. It began in Saratoga, New York, at the height of the Victorian era (1880s). Of course, it was the brainchild of a merchant, who made lots of money marketing his little creation into a lucrative– and yummy– venture.
But it’s a tradition, and a quirky one at that, for what it’s worth!
The Peppermint Pig is candy. A pig is a symbol of wealth. Most Americans had farms and kept livestock and other animals. Most of the animals served as workers on the farm as well as a source of food (for example, the bull helped plow fields but was used as food, too; the chickens ate pesky insects, but provided eggs and meat for the family). The pig, however, served as no purpose except for food. Not all families kept pigs, only the wealthier ones.
So the confectioner got this brainy idea to make a sweet pink pig of hard candy, flavored with peppermint. Unlike other (and modern sweets), the Peppermint Pig must be made from sugar, not corn syrup. This is because the Peppermint Pig more easily broken for eating (whereas a pig made from corn syrup would be gummy and not shatter).
During the Christmas holidays, it became all the “vogue” to purchase a little Peppermint Pig for the Christmas dinner. After the traditional meal, the family would gather ’round and each member would take a turn at swacking the little pig into pieces and munching on the candy. The Peppermint Pig became so popular in Upstate that numerous candy stores started producing them, but the tradition dwindled and now only one confectioner in Saratoga continues to make the Peppermint Pig. However, the Peppermint Pig is gaining popularity again. Today, the Peppermint Pig is purchased in a little velveteen pouch with a small hammer by SaratogaSweets.com. I had one many years ago, and it is a sweet little delicacy!