This afternoon I had the pleasure of a tour at Cero’s Candies of Wichita, Kansas. Cero’s is owned by the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas in Wichita. The tour was part of a visit to Wichita for an MHA National Staff Institute. There were people from all over the country. It was very interesting.
Cero’s has been making candy since 1885. A Greek sailor, Pete, came to Wichita to work in 1883. He got ill and was left behind in Wichita when the railroad crew moved on. He needed to make a living so turned to candy making.
Three generations later, in 1999, Ed Cero was ready to retire and eventually sold the business to the MHA in Wichita.
The MHA here is one of the most exceptional in the entire system. Rosemary Mohr, the director, has done amazing things in the years she has been with the organization. And she’s still doing them. She’s a marvel.
That’s Rosemary on the left and Kate Gaston from the national office on the left. I really like Kate, too. She’s a jewel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t introduced to the lady in the middle who was packaging Cero’s candy that was emblazoned with corporate logos, so can’t share her name.
Cero’s can put any logo onto their exceptional candy. It’s delicious and would make a great gift for customers or employees. They package it beautifully, too. They make lots of different kinds of candy.
One of the things being made today when we arrived were these little marshmallow snowmen.
There’s a glass window where you can watch them work. Later, Connie was making peanut clusters and it was incredible to watch.
She picked up just a little bit of chocolate and a few peanuts and then blended them by hand.
She wasn’t measuring, but seemed to instinctively know how many peanuts she needed and how much chocolate. I shot a little video because stills weren’t capturing how she blended the two.
Also being made in the back room was peanut brittle. When I wandered back Justin was cooking the syrup, with that antique candy thermometer pictured up top sitting nearby for when it would be needed.
As you can see, they’re still using a cooper pot.
He stirs with this big wooden paddle.
There’s an adjustment for the heat. You can see it even better in another photo.
I love the legs on this stove, as well as the antique candy thermometer.
It’s much like making peanut brittle at home – you cook to a certain temperature and then add peanuts and cook a while longer.
One you get to a certain temperature you remove it from the heat.
Justin had another stand sitting near the already greased table. He moved it off the stove and over to the stand near the table.
It had to cool for just a minute. He said he waited for it to look like baked beans.
Then, just like home, he added the baking soda.
And just like home, it got all foamy when he put the baking soda in.
Then it is poured out to cool.
Justin spread it out with a spatula.
Eventually it covered almost the whole table.
He then cut it into four pieces.
He then turned each one over to help it cool.
He worked his way around the table.
Then he went back and pressed it out flatter by hand.
Eventually, it looked like this, and was left to cool before being packaged to be sold to appreciative customers.
If you’re in Wichita, be sure to make Cero’s Candies one of your stops. It’s fun to watch them making whatever they’re up to that day. Also, consider ordering some. It’s delicious, made by hand (a real rarity these days), and you’ll be supporting a valuable cause to top it off.
Check out their webpage at www.ceroscandy.com. Don’t worry, if you can’t make it there in person, you can order online. I’ve loved every one of their products I’ve eaten. Yummy!