Jethart Snails: Ancient Borders sweet is making a comeback

A famous Jedburgh sweetie dating back to the early 19th century is making a welcome comeback this weekend.

Jethart Snails, a mint-flavoured toffee, are as synonymous with the town as its famous confectionery counterparts Hawick Balls and Berwick Cockels.

Now, after a two year absence, the snails are back in production after Jedburgh couple Wull and Linda Wylie acquired the rights.

This Sunday they will be selling the traditional sweets in tins at the town’s Christmas market.

Linda and Wull Wylie with their Jethart snails. Pic: Bill McBurnieLinda and Wull Wylie with their Jethart snails. Pic: Bill McBurnie
Linda and Wull Wylie with their Jethart snails. Pic: Bill McBurnie

The story of the Jethart Snails dates back to the Napoleonic War, when many French soldiers were held in Jedburgh as prisoners in the early 1800s.

To show his gratitude to Jasper Miller for all the kindness shown to him a French prisoner presented him with a recipe for minted-boiled sweets.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret and was handed down through generations of the Miller family.

Jethart snails are brown toffee infused with peppermint before being twisted into the shape of a snail, then hard-boiled. They are named after Jedburgh, which was originally known as Jethart.

Linda and Wull Wylie are looking forward to serving up Jethart snails.Linda and Wull Wylie are looking forward to serving up Jethart snails.
Linda and Wull Wylie are looking forward to serving up Jethart snails.

In recent years the recipe was sold to another local Jedburgh family, the Shaw’s, and now the Wylie family is carrying on the tradition of making snails – and the recipe remains a secret.

Wull, 60, said: “My wife Linda works in the Jedburgh Chocolate House shop and was sick of people asking for them and not being able to get them. I’m a Jed lad through and through so decided to get in touch with the Shaw’s and ended up buying them out.

"The Shaw’s had stopped production over the last couple of years and I like to see traditions kept going in the town. I enjoyed them growing up and they used to be sold in Millers the fruit shop in the town. You can’t get the original tin now but it’s the same label, so it’s basically the same.”

The sweets are to be sold in 100 gram bags and in 190 and 350 gram tins.

Wull added: "We’re making them at home. It takes four people to make them so we are helped out by two granddaughters. Hopefully we can keep it in the family from now on.

"We’re going to sell them in the Jed chocolate shop and Briggsy’s the butchers and at the Tourist Information Centre. The launch is at the Jedburgh Christmas market on Sunday and we’ll be set up there with the snails.

"The reviews we’ve had on Facebook indicate that people are really looking forward to having them back. The proof of the pudding will be at the market on Sunday. I’ve had a shop from Berwick wanting to stock them, Brown’s the newsagents in Kelso too, there’s quite a lot of interest in them. It’s exciting to have them back.”

The Borders’ other famous sweets are Hawick Balls, made world famous by legendary rugby union commentator Bill McLaren, who carried a "poke" of the town's traditional boilings with him wherever he went. Often he used them as a friendly conversation starter or as a way of drawing out rugby gossip from people.The rumour is that Hawick Balls were invented in the 1850s by "sweetie wives" Jessie McVittie and Aggie Lamb, but their exact recipe remains a secret to this day.

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