By Nadia Maria Smith
CS&T Staff Writer
Some might be surprised to learn that the Irish Potato candy, often savored during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, is actually a Philadelphia invention, not an Irish one.
And Jodi Boylan, the owner of Emerald Confections retail store in the Somerton section of Philadelphia, is a leading seller of the beloved candy and the only one that sells it year-round.
“In the 1940s or ’50s, a candy-maker from Philadelphia had extra coconut cream left over from making Easter candy. He didn’t want to throw it away so he decided to roll it into little balls and roll them in cinnamon. Then, he sold them on St. Patrick’s Day calling them Irish Potato candy.
“It was such a big hit that every year people look for it,” said Boylan, a member of St. Matthew Parish in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia. “When people move out of Philadelphia and they go looking for Irish Potato candy, nobody really seems to have them.”
That’s when people find her through her web site and she ships them as far away as Alaska, she said.
Boylan’s candy-making days began years ago when she’d make candy for her children’s themed birthday parties. Then, 10 years ago, she honed in on Irish Potato candies after making them for a fundraiser for the Ladies Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. She and a team of 30 other ladies made a hundred boxes and the candy sold out in days. A couple of years, later they made 500 boxes and the same thing happened. Then a thousand sold out, and they are still making them for their fundraiser with great success.
Boylan is still part of the organization, but doesn’t help with the fundraiser anymore. That’s because she’s been running a full- time candy business since her youngest of five children began school four years ago.
She makes the mouth-watering candies year round for other holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and for wedding favors or birthday parties.
She has also taken her specialty and added a twist: “I started dipping some in milk, white, dark and mint chocolate so it made it a little different than what the other stores were selling. It made it more gourmet,” Boylan said.
Customers seem to love her version of the Irish Potato candy too.
She works alone most of the year doing what she loves best, but during the holidays she enlists the help of her family – her five children from 10 to 18 years old, her husband and a dear friend – to help her fill the orders.
“I wanted to do something that was fulfilling to me and get my kids involved,” she said.
Now this former stay-at-home mom leads her troop in making a Philadelphia delicacy.
Emerald Confections is located at 15004 Endicott Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119. For more information call (215) 676-7180 or visit www.emeraldconfections.com.
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at email@example.com or (215) 965-4614.