In Great Britain the favourite sweet during the months preceding Easter is the Creme Egg - a confection of fondant cream the inside of which is somehow made to resemble the inside of a real egg, with a yellow 'yolk' surrounded by white 'albumen', the whole being encased in chocolate. In the US however, the equivalent is a small marshmallow representation of a chick - the Peep.
How It All Started
The manufacturer of Peeps is Just Born Inc of Pennsylvania1. The company was founded in 1917 by Sam Born, an immigrant to the US from France who opened a small shop in New York City selling chocolates and sweets which were made on the premises. In 1923 Sam opened a small factory in Brooklyn, NYC, and nine years later the company relocated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
In 1953 Just Born acquired a smaller confectionery manufacturer called the Rodda Candy Company. Although they were better known for making jelly beans, Rodda also made marshmallow products, one of which was small chicks in three colours2 called Peeps, which were made each Easter. At the time they were laboriously produced by squeezing the marshmallow out of piping bags, but Just Born soon automated the process, multiplying the number of Peeps which could be made each day by many factors of ten. In 1995 a new colour - lavender - was added, and three years later a blue Peep joined the other four colours to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Just Born Inc. 2003 marked the 50th birthday of Peeps.
Today a whole range of marshmallow shapes and colours are made depending on the season - chicks, eggs, and bunnies for Easter, orange pumpkins and white ghosts for Halloween, red hearts for Valentines Day, white stars during the summer, even marshmallow gingerbread men for Christmas. Over one billion of these shapes are made each year, almost half of them for Easter, and while they are all marketed under the brand name Peeps, for most Americans the word 'Peeps' will always mean the chicks.
How Are Peeps Made?
Marshmallow is a combination of sugar and glucose syrup which is cooked and then whipped with egg white and gum to produce a white, viscous slurry sometimes called frappé.
This is pumped into moulds, or in the case of the chicks mechanically pumped with same action which produced them when they were made by hand, and left to harden slightly. While still tacky but stiff enough to maintain their shape, sugar which has been previously mixed with a colouring agent is blown over the sweets to cover them3 and give them their colour. When cool, the Peeps are packed and shipped out.
How Do You Eat Yours?
Just like the Creme Egg, there are many different ways to eat a Peep:
Open the wrapper and leave them out for a couple of days. They will get stiff on the outside while remaining soft on the inside, so you get a nice crunch followed by soft bliss.
Suck them to death! Fold two or three in your mouth and don't chew.
Bite their heads off.
Cram as many in your mouth as you can.
Use them as a pizza topping.
What Do You Want to Do with Your Peeps Today?
Judging by the number of websites and pages devoted to things to do with Peeps other than eating them, you have to wonder if some people don't have too much time on their hands! There's even a Peeps Webring to link the sites together!
How about, for instance, testing Peeps to destruction? Apparently it's not as easy as you may think. In fact, trying to destroy Peeps seems to be quite a popular pastime. However, beware of vengeful bunnies.