Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Candy Cheer

Ma's Peanut Brittle a la Matthew
When creating The Red Plate cookbook for my family several years ago my notion was to, in some small way, impart a connection back to Mammy and Ma. I always have something to say about those two wonderful ladies, my grandmother's. Their influence in several areas is noticeably ingrained in me. I think of them almost every time I cook. 

My paternal grandmother, Mammy, was famous for her Chicken and Dumplings. My Daddy loved her Sweet Potato Pone and although I loved her Cane Syrup Cookies and Blackberry Cobbler, I can't seem to duplicate either one to save my life. I've tried but I don't think I've hit the mark. Truly, if I began listing all the memorable recipes she had, that would be a story within itself. She was so special to me and my brother; she was our doting grandmother.

My maternal grandmother was the nurturing sort. And not just toward her family, but to anyone she felt needed a touch of kindness that she could so ably supply. She was loved and appreciated by friends and family alike for her loving ways. Ma was a "giver", never a "taker". I think you understand what I mean here, and hopefully you can name someone in your life that fits that description. Her food and her way of cooking is a model for all of us even now. Ma's Cornbread Dressing during the holidays was the best; her Fried Fruit Pies for my grandfather's lunch were flaky and sweet. But her Sunday dinners were feast's every time we gathered in her tiny dining room after church. It was honest home style cooking year round. Whatever the season provided, whether summer's fresh veggie harvest or the comforting side dishes of winter, you could bet her unique Fried Chicken or her personal favorite, Beef Pot Roast and Gravy was part of the meal. We always laughed at her fear of not having enough food when indeed there was an abundance, always.

There are times when I conjure a dish that one of my grandmother's made that was so delicious I can virtually smell the aroma just from my very strong recollection. However, a couple of nights ago my son provided the fragrance of parching peanuts and bubbling sugar in my kitchen. I've said before Matthew is a great cook, but a candy making young man isn't easy to find, I surmise. He loves to use recipes from The Red Plate cookbook; he's even adopted his own tradition just like Ma did during Christmastime. Candy as a friendship gift is special to anyone. It's the attention and time given to creating something that says, "I thought of you".  He made two batches of Ma's Peanut Brittle and a big ole bunch of White Chocolate Pretzels for his guys at work. I loved being with him; I was transported back to thoughts of my grandmother's and Mama making the very same things. 

Ma's Peanut Brittle

2 cups raw shelled peanuts
1 cup white corn syrup (such as Karo or Blackburn's)
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Peanuts parchin' in the hot sugar syrup
In a heavy bottomed pot mix well the peanuts, syrup and sugar. Over a medium heat cook for 20 minutes or so. The syrup will begin to turn a light brandy colour near the end of the cooking time and the smell from the mixture will be slightly caramel-like with a yummy note of parching peanuts in the air.

Magic ingredient...Baking Soda
Working fast, add the baking soda to the candy and stir like mad. This step should be done very quickly while moving the pot from the heat to near the platter onto which it will be poured.  

The platter should be buttered well and waiting for the candy.

Stir only until the soda is mixed in and the candy is still foaming.
LIBERALLY buttered platter
Pour the foaming candy onto the platter quickly and spread with your spoon, but do not overdo the spreading in order to retain the puffiness in the hot candy.

Matt pouring the molten candy from the pot
Here you can see the blur of Matt's spoon while getting the candy onto the waiting buttered platter. During the cooling process, lift the edges to assure it doesn't stick.

When completely cool, break into pieces.
Broken and ready to give as gifts
My grandmother, Matt's great-grandmother, would have been more than proud if she could have watched her Matty make Christmas gift's with her recipe. In fact she probably would have supervised the whole operation to Matt's delight. 

~ Merry Christmas ~

1 comment:

  1. Yummy! Following Back!!!

    My style has been called NOLA French more than once! I never really though of it that way...but I love LA! Hope to visit there soon!