Grandpa’s Peanut Brittle

January 26 is national peanut brittle day so it seemed timely to share this family recipe. According to my internet research peanut brittle first started showing up in American cook books in the early 1800’s, so this is about as old fashioned as it gets. Unlike many of those early recipes this one holds up. Peanut brittle is delicious.

I’ve talked quite a bit about grandma’s recipes, but grandpa always made the peanut brittle. It was primarily a holiday tradition but you don’t have to limit your enjoyment. He’s been gone 20 years now, but I still think of him instantly when I taste peanut brittle.

Why not whip up a batch to celebrate national peanut brittle day? Or just celebrate a random Tuesday, you don’t need a reason. With only 4 ingredients this is a pretty simple recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb of raw peanuts. Look for these in the produce section or the baking aisle. You might have to ask at the store where they hide them.
  • 2 Cups of sugar
  • 1 Cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Note – a candy thermometer is highly recommended with this recipe. I’ll share the old school method for knowing when the temperature is right, but it is far from foolproof.

Directions

  1. Prepare a baking sheet or pan by spraying it with cooking oil or greasing it with butter or shortening. It needs to be well greased or your peanut brittle will not come off easily. Put this aside but somewhere close so you can easily grab it when the time comes.
  2. In a medium/large saucepan combine the sugar and corn syrup. Turn the burner to medium high heat and stir continuously until the mixture start to boil.
  3. Once it starts to boil stop stirring and just let it do its thing. It needs to get to 300° F. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer see note below on the old fashioned method). Be patient, it takes a little time to get there. Don’t be tempted to move on to soon or you won’t get “brittle”, you’ll get “bendy”. This is not the time to walk away or do something else. You need to watch closely and move to the next step as soon as it hits 300° F.
  1. When the sugar mixture hits 300° F add the raw peanuts. Begin stirring. This mixture will be very thick, use a sturdy spoon or spatula.
  2. Continue cooking and stirring until until the mixture starts to brown slightly, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. remove the pot from the heat and add the baking soda. It will start to foam up noticeably. You need to move quickly now because you want to capture those bubble to give the brittle its classic texture.
  4. Stir just enough to mix the soda throughout the pan.
  5. Pour the contents of the pan onto your prepared baking sheet and spread it out with the spatula. It will start to harden as soon as it cools so work fast.
  1. Once it is cool (about 30 minutes), you can use a spatula to lift the whole sheet of the pan and break it into pieces about 1-2 inches in size. Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can do what your great grandparents did to test the candy. Fortunately heavy sugar solutions behave in a very predictable way at certain temperatures and our cooking ancestors figured this out and used it to their advantage and you may have even seen some of these references in older recipes. You will need a bowl of water for this method. At 235° F a drizzle of the syrup dropped into water will form a soft ball. It will squish a little between your fingers. At 260° F it will form a hard ball when drizzled in water (no squish). At 300° it will form long “hairs” or strands in the water that are brittle and break easily. You will note in grandpa’s original recipe it says cook it until it “hairs”.
  • Clean up – The pan and spoon/spatula you use to stir the mixture will have considerable residue that turns rock hard as it cools. Fill the pan with hot water and put in the sink for about 30 minutes (put the spoon in there too). The water will dissolve the sugar and clean up will be a breeze.

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