My favorite Christmas memory centers on candy. For as long as I can remember, my family has made peanut brittle around the holidays and distributed it to friends and loved ones. My earliest memories are of sitting and watching my grandfather, George Pope, slowly heat the sugar concoction, almost burning it, but pulling it off the burner at the perfect time. The smell of caramel permeated the house, and we all anticipated the tasting of the last batch. Having to wait for the candy to cool was and still is the hardest part.
My grandfather did teach me that there were rewards for waiting, like not burning your fingers or your mouth. I now look back at those times and wish I had asked questions and learned more from his vast experiences and knowledge. At the same time, I realize that he taught me so much without saying a word. He showed me how a Christian should live by the way he treated both friends and strangers, how he spent his spare time doing maintenance around the church, and how he loved my grandmother and the rest of my family.
I now hope that he is proud of me and who I have become. It has been ten years since he left us, and every Christmas my mother and I still make peanut brittle and wonder if we will ever make a batch as good as his. I also strive to live my life with the values and morals George Pope instilled in me.
Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle
2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. water
2 c. raw Virginia peanuts
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. butter
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy skillet. Heat slowly; stir until sugar dissolves. Cook to the soft ball stage (238° - remove candy from the heat while testing).
Blanch peanuts by covering them with boiling water for three minutes, then running under cold water until cool. Remove coating. Add peanuts and salt to the candy mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, to the hard crack stage (290°). Remove from heat.
Add butter and soda to the mixture; stir to blend. Mixture will bubble. Pour onto greased platters. Cool partially by lifting around the edges with a non-stick spatula; keep the spatula in motion to ensure no sticking. When firm but still warm, flip the candy over.
When completely cooled, break into pieces and store.