Nut Rolls and ketchup chips

Published 1:03 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009

I don’t consider myself a picky eater. I don’t like tomatoes and onions and avocados, but everything else within reason I’ll eat no problem.

Some of my favorite foods over the years have been the ones that are specialized to a certain region or country.

I’ve eaten fresh Nutella crepes within a football’s throw of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve eaten a deep-fried Twinkie at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California, and I’ve savored sweet tea with a late lunch of catfish and grits in the deep South.

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Every area seems to have its own unique specialties, and Minnesota has its share as well.

In addition to our own Hormel Foods, the state is also home to Pearson’s Candy Co. in St. Paul; the August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm; and Old Dutch Foods in Roseville.

Pearson’s will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in May and is most famous for its Salted Nut Rolls and its mint patties. Nationally distributed, the company also produces Nut Goodies and the Bun candy products, with flavors of maple, caramel and vanilla.

“We’re not a company that is out to recreate the world and offer new and innovative products,” said Pam Van Kempen, executive assistant for the Pearson Candy Co. “Our products have a long standing tradition and basically, they stand on their own.”

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Pearson’s manufactured the 7-Up candy bar, which was a reference to the seven different flavors in the bar and not the popular soft drink of the same name.

Van Kempen said the seven flavors changed over the years based on public taste and commodity prices.

In 1962, for instance, the flavors were Brazil nuts; coconut cream; milk caramel; maple walnut; chocolate pudding; fruit jelly; and vanilla cream. By 1979, when the candy was discontinued following declining popularity and sales, the flavors were butterscotch caramel; cherry creme; fudge; orange jelly; nougat; coconut; and butter cream.

I was curious, so I asked Ms. Van Kempen what the chances are of a return of the 7-Up bar in honor of the company’s 100th anniversary.

“There is not a chance at all,” she said. “We no longer have the equipment and no longer have the rights to the name.”

Fans of Pearson’s will just have to stick with the mint patties, the Nut Rolls, the Nut Goodies and the Bun products.

The Schell Brewing Company features a gift shop and a museum.

According its Web site, August Schell was born in Germany in 1828 and his family, made up of his wife Theresa and their two daughters, were some of the first settlers to form New Ulm.

Like many brewing companies, Schell features an original and a light variety; year-round offerings that include a pilsner, a pale ale and a stout; and seasonal beers that include a Hefeweizen and a winter beer named SnowStorm.

Old Dutch Foods has offered its snacks since 1934 and seems to be a Minnesota staple. Such Old Dutch products include Puffcorn and pretzels, in addition to its chips that come in varieties that include original, onion and garlic, dill pickle and ketchup.

Writing a complete report of all of Minnesota’s unique businesses would probably take 100 columns, but one column will have to do for now.

I’m getting too hungry and thirsty just thinking about it.