Granny's Secret Peanut Brittle Recipe
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, not only for the birth of Jesus, but also I love that it’s cold and you can make peanut brittle.
Every family has at least one… you know, the one who doesn’t mind trying to make others feel inferior so they can feel more important. Their pies are better than anyone else, their kids are smarter, or their car is newer.
Mother’s family had two…
For years, Mother’s Mother, Granny Cheek, was the head cook for the schools in Greenwood, Arkansas. And because of that, if anyone asked her for a recipe, more times than not, what they got might one for 24 pie crusts (here’s how I know that), or a meatloaf that would feed 200.
Her Eastern Star group printed a Cookbook several years before she died and it included a lot of her recipes. What it didn’t include were her “Special recipes”. They were the ones that she wouldn’t share with anyone… the fudge, divinity and peanut brittle that she made every year at Christmas. Everyone raved about about how fantastic her candy was, and she’d just get this smug look on her face, as if so say “Well, of course it is”!
Just before she died, she gave each of her daughters ONE of her secret candy recipes, with the understanding that they weren’t to share it with anyone… including each other.
Well, the “don’t share with anyone” part lasted as long as it took my Aunts to copy the one they had been given and exchange with the other sisters. That is, except my Mother. Granny had given her the peanut brittle recipe. But she wouldn’t share it with any of them, even though she had gotten copies of the one they’d been given. My Aunts were furious with her, but she wouldn’t budge. I even tried to get her to give me the recipe, but I couldn’t get it either. So for years, she had the only copy of Granny’s peanut brittle recipe.
Fast forward 20 years…
Before his death, my husband owned an electronics firm and at Christmas, he gave his customers a little something as an appreciation for their business. He asked Mother to make 100 1-lb tins of peanut brittle, and he would give it that year.
She had delivered 70 of the tins when she called his office and said she wouldn’t be able to finish the last 30 because she had burned her hand really bad. She was pouring a pan of hot brittle onto the cookie sheet when she dropped one side and it poured out over her hand.
I was at his office when she called. I immediately drove over there, and when I went in, my heart sank… her hand was blistered almost to her wrist. She said she had stuck her hand under cold water, but all that did was make the brittle harden quicker. She and my step-father had finally gotten all the candy off and was putting Campho-Phenique all over her hand.
I knew that wasn’t the answer, so I grabbed the aloe vera plant from outside, broke the leaves open and covered the burns with the juice. After a while, she said it had quit burning as bad, but she still didn’t see any way to finish the candy.
So, I suggested that she be the Overseer and just tell me how to make the candy, which surprisingly, she agreed to.
First was 1/2 c. water… I measured it and dumped it in the pan. Next was sugar – a cup full. I picked up the 1 cup pyrex measure on the cabinet, poured sugar to the 1 cup line and was getting ready to pour it in the pan, when Mother barked – “I said a cup full”.
“Mother, that IS a cup” I snapped back at her.
“That cup is not full” was her response!
After a couple more “mis-measures”, I finally got everything in the pan, cooked it until it “spun a thread” and then added the peanuts. Once the peanuts were in the pan, she said that we needed to start counting the “pops” that the peanuts made. And, when there had been 45 “pops”, the candy was ready for the soda and vanilla to be added and then poured out into the pans.
Oh, I almost forgot… once the brittle was in the pans, you had to hold the pan flat and whack it across the cabinet 4 times to be sure that it made good air bubbles. She said that was an important part of the recipe.
It took several hours but we did get the other 30 pounds made. When I got back to the office, the first thing I did was write the recipe down, along with the “full cup” notes. I called my daughter, told her about Mother getting burned and that I HAD THE PEANUT BRITTLE RECIPE!
The next day, I mailed each of my Aunts a copy, and every one of them called when they got it, and laughed when I told them HOW I’d gotten it. Aunt Dorothy said that “Lola is getting more like Mother every day.” Sad, but I had to agree with her.
When Mother learned what I had done, she was furious and let me know in no uncertain terms, that if Granny had wanted them to have it, she would have given it to them. I told her she was being selfish just like her Mother had been… which made her even madder.
After Mother died, I was cleaning out her kitchen and found her recipe card for Granny’s peanut brittle. The ingredients were exact as to what was used, but the actual instructions were minimal compared to what she had told me to do while we were making it.
Every family has at least one member who is mostly selfish and petty. I can honestly say that Daddy’s side, the Sosebee’s, were pretty much the opposite. They were loving, caring and would give you the shirt of their back without a thought and never expect anything in return.
Granny Cheek and Granny Sosebee were as different as two people can possibly be. One was selfish, petty, and most of the time, unhappy. The other was kind, generous, and a joy to be around.
As soon as I was old enough to realize what I was seeing, I decided to pattern my life after the Sosebee side. I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve always had those two Granny’s to guide me.
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