The humble peanut shines in this third-generation recipe for homemade peanut brittle –
My Grandmother, Audrey Lee, was a force to be reckoned with. As Southern as they come, “Granny” operated on one speed: non-stop. In her small kitchen in Fitzgerald, Georgia, (with no dishwasher) she whipped up everything from fried chicken to sixteen-layer fresh coconut cakes. As a child, my mom would have to crack the coconuts and shred the interior by hand. Her cooking and recipes are the stuff of legends – especially her peanut brittle.
Now, years later, my mom and I carry on her tradition, cooking endless batches of peanut brittle to give to friends, family, and most recently, my clients. The process ain’t pretty. The smell takes over the house, it requires fire-drill precision, attention to detail, and gorilla-like strength to lift the heavy cast iron skillet bubbling with hot candy. We often find small “chips” of brittle on clothing, shoes, or the floor after breaking up the large single batch layer into bite-sized pieces. As my mom says, you have to be “half crazy” to want to cook this!
We’ve often been asked for the recipe and now, after three generations, we’re sharing it. The recipe itself is simple – it’s the process and nuances that sometimes take “batches of practice” to achieve the perfect color, smell, timing, and temperature. Enjoy!
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup white Karo syrup
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ T salt
- 4 cups of raw peanuts, shelled
- 4 T Butter, divided into 1 T and 3 T
- 2 T baking soda
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
How it’s done:
- Before you begin, check the humidity. If it is raining or moist out, lower your AC to reduce the humidity in the air – this will ensure the crisp brittle.
- Start by assembling all ingredients or “mise en place” as chefs say. I add the salt to the cup containing the raw peanuts in advance.
- Prepare a strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil sprayed with Pam and smear with 1 T butter. Place it on top of a heat resistant flat surface (we use a metal top rolling utility cart).
- In a large, deep cast iron skillet, combine the sugar, syrup and water over medium high heat until melted.
- Stir until mixture is boiling, then reduce heat to medium and stir until mixture forms a thread – about 5 minutes depending on temperature.
- Pour peanuts into mixture and stir until it returns to a simmer; cook for about 10 minutes until peanuts turn golden brown. After around 6 minutes, add the remaining 3 T butter and stir to combine. This is where color and smell come into play. The mixture should turn a deep, golden brown and almost smell a little burnt.
- Remove the skillet from heat and add baking soda (it will bubble up quickly so you’ll have to stir fast to combine).
- Quickly pour mixture onto foil while actively spreading it to form a thin layer.
- Allow the layer to cool for about 5-8 minutes, then transfer the foil with candy to another cool surface (ideally marble counter or the top of a washer/dryer); we continue moving it back and forth to a new cold surface.
- Once it has completely hardened, carefully break up into pieces. Store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. It will last several weeks if kept in a cool, dry spot; I place in a fridge drawer to keep it even longer.
- Lee Heffernan is the president of sales and marketing for Lake Oconee Living and recently worked with her mother, Robbie Williams, to make enough tasty peanut brittle to share with supporters of the magazine.