How to Make Peanut Brittle and Other Holiday Classics

How to Make Candied Orange Peel, Sugared Nuts, and Vinegar Taffy and Candy

how-to-make-peanut-brittle

By Jill Cooper & Tawra Kellam – Everyone loves candy and old-fashioned candy can be fun to make at the holidays. Candy making is big at our house, and through the years I’ve enjoyed learning how to make peanut brittle and all the Christmas classics. One tip, be very careful when making homemade candies. If you don’t get everything on sale for a good price then it can be more expensive than buying the candy pre-made. If you find the ingredients on sale it can be lots of frugal family fun for the holidays.

If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can use these candy cooking tests instead.

When placed in a cold cup of water, candy will:

Soft ball: 234°-240°F—form a soft ball that can be flattened
Firm ball:  242°-248°F—form a firm ball that holds its shape until pressed
Hard ball: 250°-268°F—form a ball that is pliable and holds its shape
Soft crack: 270°-290°F— separates into hard but not brittle threads
Hard crack: 300°-310°F— cracks easily
Caramel: 320°-350°F—mixture coats metal spoon and forms light caramel-colored mass when poured onto a plate

For high altitude—lower candy temperature 2°F for each 1,000 feet of elevation.

Let’s start with how to make peanut brittle.

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PEANUT BRITTLE

~ 3/4 cup corn syrup
~ 2 cups sugar
~ 3/4 cup hot water
~ 2 cups raw peanuts
~ 1 teaspoon soda
~ 1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Grease 2 jellyroll pans. In a saucepan add corn syrup, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and cook to a hardball stage 260°F. Add peanuts and cook to hard crack at 290°F. Add soda and salt. Stir well and pour into pans and spread thin. Cool quickly. I usually make this for Christmas and don’t have room left in my refrigerator so I just set it outside in the snow for a few minutes until it has cooled. Makes 3-4 dozen pieces.

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CANDIED ORANGE PEEL

~ Peels from 3 large oranges or grapefruits
~ 3/4 cup water
~ 2 tablespoons corn syrup
~ 2-3/4 cups sugar, divided

Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Put them in a 3-quart saucepan (not aluminum) and add water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Boil the water, syrup, and 2 cups of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the peels. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the peels with a slotted spoon. Then put on a rack over a baking pan. Drain for 5 minutes, separate peels, and dry for another hour. Toss the peels into a plastic bag with the remaining sugar. Allow to air dry 3 more hours, then store in an airtight container. Keeps one month or can be frozen. Makes 30-40 pieces.

Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Put them in a 3-quart saucepan (not aluminum) and add water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Boil the water, syrup, and 2 cups of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the peels. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the peels with a slotted spoon. Then put on a rack over a baking pan. Drain for 5 minutes, separate peels, and dry for another hour. Toss the peels into a plastic bag with the remaining sugar. Allow to air dry 3 more hours, then store in an airtight container. Keeps one month or can be frozen. Makes 30-40 pieces.

Use the leftover syrup from the candied orange peels on your pancakes, waffles or French toast for a gourmet taste.

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VINEGAR TAFFY

~ 2 cups dark corn syrup
~ 1 cup sugar
~ 2 tablespoons butter
~ 1 tablespoon vinegar
~ Food coloring
~ 1 teaspoon baking soda
~ 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking to 260°F. Remove from heat and stir in soda, vanilla and a few drops of food coloring. Beat until smooth and creamy. Pour into a buttered pan. When cool enough to handle butter hands and pull until light in color. Pull into long strips and cut into 1 inch pieces. Makes 8 dozen.

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VINEGAR CANDY

~ 2 cups sugar
~ 1/2 cup cider vinegar
~ 2 teaspoons butter

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook to 275°F. Pour into well buttered jellyroll pan, let cool, and break. Makes 24 pieces.

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SUGARED NUTS

~ 3 cups walnut halves
~ 1-1/2cups pecan halves
~ 2 cups sugar
~ 1 cup water
~ 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients in a heavy skillet. Cook until water disappears and nuts have a sugary appearance. Remove from heat and pour nuts onto a baking sheet. Separate quickly with 2 forks. Makes 5 cups.

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Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, available from the Countryside Bookstore. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com.

If you’re in the holiday spirit, here are great seasonal stories from Countryside you might enjoy: homemade bread recipes, the 12 Days of Christmas — Meaning Behind the Birds and a gift guide for those favoring self-sustaining living.

Originally published in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal.

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