Internet, meet the mighty tasty peanut brittle made by Eastern Door reporter Jessica Deer’s mother. (Photos by Jessica Deer)
My mom, Hope Stacey, turns into a bit of a baking machine around Christmas.
In addition to cooking a feast for our family that includes a 30-pound turkey, stuffing, chicken and dumplings, and about a dozen apple and lemon meringue pies, she also whips up a few batches of peanut brittle during the holidays.
The peanut brittle is something she’s been making for over 15 years – and, damn, is it ever good.
“I’m so good at it that I make two at a time,” mom said proudly.
That’s exactly what she did last Wednesday evening, made two batches for her coworkers at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Center (KMHC) to snack on.
She let me help. Well, after we both struggled to open the container of peanuts she bought a day earlier at Bulk Barn, we finally got started and obviously, by “we” I mean, my mom did all the work, while I kept eating the peanuts when she wasn’t looking.
The recipe is something she has handwritten on a tiny piece of paper in a phone book of other little pieces of paper with recipes scribbled on it. She said it’s a recipe that several staff at the KMHC have.
“One of the nurses at the hospital brought it one Christmas and I immediately asked her for the recipe. Everyone did, actually,” she said.
It’s no wonder. This stuff is mighty delicious and never lasts more than a day or two at family gatherings.
1 cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
pinch of salt
2 cups of salted peanuts, cashews or other nuts
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of butter
Mix sugar, salt, and corn syrup in an oven-safe/microwave-safe dish, something with a lid is ideal. Mom used these deep ceramic dishes with glass lids that have been around the house since I was a kid.
“It’s basically a bunch of sugar with peanuts,” said Hope. “You cover your sugar mixture and it has to go into the microwave for seven minutes.”
Every once in while, the mixture needs to be stirred well to prevent burning or it sticking to the sides.
“So, what you do is put it in for three-and-a-half minutes, twice. You must wear oven mitts because it is hot and a must is a wooden spoon, because the peanut brittle is really hot when it’s ready,” she said, noting how it’s also easier to clean.
In fact, a lot of her tips during this part were less about cooking the peanut brittle, and more about dishes, such, as making sure to soak your measuring cups in hot water after it’s been covered in corn starch.
“It’s going to stick and it’s going to be hard to wash,” she said.
When the microwave beeps, add in two cups of peanuts, cashews, or whatever nut of your choice. We used peanuts.
Return the mixture to the microwave for five minutes and 30 seconds, removing every two minutes to mix well. However, Hope said that this part really depends on a person’s microwave.
It should be a bubbling boiling golden colour. Perfect. Mix in vanilla extract, baking soda and butter. Stir well and pop in the microwave for an additional 20-30 seconds.
“The very last is crucial. It could be 30 seconds to a minute – depending on your microwave. You don’t want to burn it. You want it light brown, not dark brown,” said Hope.
Mix well and pour onto a greased cookie sheet. Let cool for about half an hour or so before breaking into pieces.
The way my mom makes this, the name can be kind of deceptive – it’s far from brittle. She warned not to try to attempt to break with your hands, but rather place in a large zip-lock bag and break into half-inch pieces using a hammer, then keep in an airtight container or cellophane wrapped in a ribbon, if giving as an individual gift. Fancy.