How Are Gummy Bears Made?

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The gummy bear recipe has changed over the years.
The gummy bear recipe has changed over the years. (Image: Anthony Seebaran/iStock/Getty Images)

Gummy bear candies were originally created with natural ingredients that made them dense, chewy, fruity and sweet. Today, gummy bears taste just as good but are made with fewer natural ingredients. Making your own gummies is relatively simple. Although softer than the store-bought variety, homemade gummy bears allow you to customize the flavors or to create versions made with real fruit juice and natural colors.

Shape of Bears to Come

The first step in making gummy bears is creating the molds. The bear shapes are designed on paper first, and then scanned on a computer to create 3-D images. Plaster molds are created from the data, and are later used to create hundreds of plaster stamps. The stamps imprint bear shapes into layers of cornstarch. These imprints, or molds, are then filled with gummy candy.

The Secret to the Chewiness

Gummy bears get their soft chew and gummy texture from gelatin. The fat- and carbohydrate-free gelatin, also used in marshmallows and other gummy candies, is colorless and flavorless. Gelatin, a protein that comes from meat byproducts, takes on the texture of gummy candy when used in the right concentration. Lower concentrations of gelatin creates a jellylike consistency without chew, similar to fruit-flavored gelatin desserts. Originally, gummies were made with gummi arabicum, a resin from the acacia tree. That ingredient was replaced with gelatin to create a softer texture and to change the taste of the candies.

Creating a Gummy Bear

Corn syrup and sugar are the main ingredients in commercial gummy bears. Corn syrup makes them transparent while dextrose, a type of sugar, makes them sweet. Artificial coloring matches colors to flavors, and citric acid is added to sharpen the flavors. Once the gummy candy has been mixed and heated, it is dispensed into the cornstarch molds. The cornstarch absorbs moisture from the candy, which helps create the gummy texture, and also prevents the candy from sticking. After a fairly long drying process, the gummy bears are coated with beeswax and carnauba wax, which give them a shiny finish and further prevent sticking.

Making Your Own Gummies

If you would like to make your own gummy bears, combine ice water with equal parts of unflavored and flavored gelatin. Adding powdered drink crystals into the mixture will heighten the flavor. Heat the mixture until melted, or if you prefer, microwave on high until melted and slightly foamy. Use a measuring cup with pouring spout to distribute the melted gummy into the molds. Firm the candy by placing the filled molds into the freezer for approximately 10 minutes. If you wish, replace the flavored gelatin with plain gelatin, and then replace the water with fruit juice and honey or a natural sweetener. You can purchase bear-shaped candy molds from most craft stores or specialty food shops.

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