Deborah Ball, aka The Candy Lady, was destined for the sweet life. She remembers being 10 years old and helping her mother make and sell rock candy for $1.25/lb. to earn money. And, as they say, rest is history, and Deborah has been making candy by hand, much of it with a uniquely Southwestern flair, for the past 30 years.
Using the best ingredients she can find, including Merkens Chocolate, Deborah and her small staff crank out a huge variety of hard candies, including handmade licorice, brittles, 21 kinds of fudge, turtles, truffles, and a delightful treat she calls peanut butter crunch.
“Our candies aren’t made in a factory,” says Deborah. “They’re all made right here in our little kitchen. And each candy tastes different from the next.”
Today she’s using heavy scissors to snip pieces off a shiny mass of black licorice. The candy, smooth and hard, has filled the room with a delicious aroma and it tastes complex, almost herbal; nothing like commercial black licorice.
She makes her truffles with Merkens dark chocolate and real liquors like rum and Grand Marnier not flavorings. Instead of cream, she uses evaporated milk in the truffles which gives them a smooth texture and longer shelf life, but a slightly different flavor than traditional cream-based truffles.
One of her best sellers is her fudge, including a pinon (pine nut) penuche that’s creamy with a brown sugar flavor that’s nicely balanced and moderated by the pinons. She sells both red and green chili fudge too.
The handmade black licorice has an earthy, herbal flavor that keeps fans coming back for more.
Another candy with a distinctly New Mexican flair are the Dia de los Muertos (day of the Dead) sugar skulls and her pinon brittle.
A small room off to one side of the main store features a sign that says “No one under 18 allowed.” That’s where Deborah displays her distinctly X-rated candy in molded chocolate, white, and pink varieties. This racy side of the business started with a customer’s request for a man’s private part in chocolate. Deborah, who wasn’t offended by the order, searched out a mold and made her first X-rated candy. Other somewhat bawdy fun sweets followed.
At the time, the business was only two years old and “hanging on by a thread” according to Deborah, when a church group heard about the hotsy chocolate items and decided to picket her store. The resulting media coverage put her on the map in Albuquerque and brought in scores of new customers. “Those protestors took my business from a two-year old company to one that has the potential to be a 100-year-old company,” she says, smiling broadly. “It wasn’t their intention, but they did really good things for the business.”
Another big seller and this reviewer’s personal favorite is her peanut butter crunch, large irregular lumps of peanut butter and crunchy candy. “This one is based on the old chicken sticks candy,” she says. “But it started out as a mistake. We were making a hard candy and by mistake put in some peanut butter and we loved it.”
It’s that kind of serendipity and creativity that keeps Albuquerque customers coming back to The Candy Lady. All of The Candy Ladies products are available online.
The Candy Lady
524 Romero St. NW (In Old Town)
Albuquerque, New Mexico