Peanut brittle

Peanuts: the quintessential Georgia crop. Equally delicious whether eaten boiled, raw, or roasted; tossed with spices or sugar; sprinkled on an ice cream sundae or crumbled over a dish of pad thai. But this time of year, nothing beats peanut brittle–especially my grandfather’s. (Well, honestly, I ate my share of boiled peanuts over the weekend while tailgating before the Georgia game.)

While I was in Atlanta over Thanksgiving, I knew that  I didn’t want to come back to Seattle without making peanut brittle with my grandfather, Papa. Peanut brittle is one on a long list of his and Mema’s specialities, and no holiday season is complete without handfuls of the stuff.

Papa continues to make multiple batches every year, usually with different family members, to give as gifts to his neighbors, friends, doctors, and anybody who looks hungry.

I think “Walgreen” means his pharmacists at Walgreen’s.

So a few weeks ago, my mom ordered the peanuts (raw and shelled, of course) and Papa brought  over all of the necessary equipment the day after Thanksgiving. He has certain a certain pot and cookie sheets he uses because he makes so much brittle, both peanut and pecan.

In addition to making brittle with Papa, we also made a trip out to Matthews with a big crowd for lunch one day, and Rocco’s (of course). I made a couple of batches of cheese straws to nibble on before the Thanksgiving meal was ready on Thursday, as well as a divine dark chocolate tart that I’ll have to make again so I can post it here.

Folks lined up at Matthews.

Saturday was spent in Athens, walking around and then tailgating before the Georgia/Georgia Tech game that night. It had been two years since I’d been back to Athens, and it felt great to cheer on the Dawgs at Sanford Stadium! Glad we didn’t lose to the nerdy Techies, or it would have been a long ride home.

Peanut brittle

*Each batch makes roughly two slabs of brittle, and a 5-lb bag of peanuts made three batches. You’ll also need a candy thermometer for this recipe.

3 cups sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup hot water
4 cups raw, shelled peanuts
1/4-inch cube paraffin wax
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking soda
butter

Karo syrup: good for brittle, pecan pies, and…well, I think that’s it.

Put the sugar and Karo syrup in a large pot. With the same measuring cup you measured the syrup, measure one cup of hot water. Add water to the pot and stir to combine. Clip a candy thermometer to the pot. Turn the heat on high and cook the mixture until the temperature reaches 230º.

While you’re waiting for it to hit 230º, get your peanuts and paraffin wax prepared.

Papa and Mom cutting the paraffin.

When it reaches 230º, pour in the peanuts.

Stir them around to make sure they’re all coated, and then add the paraffin.

The temperature has to rise again, this time up to 280º. In the meantime, butter a couple of pans; you’ll pour the hot mixture out on them, so pans with a lip tend to work better. If you have a big marble slab or marble countertops, you can use that instead. Make sure to butter whatever surface you’re using very liberally.

Measure out the salt and baking soda onto pieces of paper towel and have them ready by the stove. (You don’t have to put them on pieces of paper towel, but that’s what Papa does so I just went with it.)

OK, now for the tricky part. You really have to be watching the peanut mixture on the stove–it takes awhile to get in the neighborhood of 260º, but once it does, it shoots up to 280º very fast. Once it hits 280º, immediately turn off the heat, add the salt and baking soda, and then stir the mixture with a sturdy spoon like you’ve never stirred anything in your life. It’ll get all foamy, but keep stirring as you take the pot over to the buttered pans. Pour half of the mixture onto one pan–stirring all the while–and then the other half onto the other pan. It takes some practice to time everything just right and to distribute the peanuts evenly between the pans.

After you pour the hot mixture onto the pans, immediately spread it out with a spoon or rubber spatula while it’s still hot.

It’ll take it awhile to cool, but you can expedite the process by getting it off the hot pan once it’s not quite so gooey.

You can even wave it around like Papa did!

Once the brittle has cooled and hardened, break it into pieces. There are several ways to go about doing this, but any way you do it is fine. It’ll end up looking like this:

Enjoy!

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