Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Cowboy Peanut Brittle with a Kick"

"Cowboy Peanut Brittle with a Kick"
Last Christmas season, my son Austin and his mother made various candies and cookies. One candy, was peanut brittle.   Austin enjoyed making the various hard candies during the holiday season.  Several weeks later while window shopping with me in a Texas Specialty shop, we saw a Peanut Brittle made with Jalapeno Peppers and drown in green food coloring.  Austin purchase some, yet after tasting, he wanted to improve the taste and appearance. Assisted by his mom, the two came up with "Cowboy Peanut Brittle with a Kick."  Changing their standard recipe, they added cayenne pepper to give the taste some real kick but smoothing it out using a pinch of cinnamon and leaving the color it's natural golden brown. It's a taste every buckaroo will love.  At the Cowboy Country Round-Up held in Hondo, Texas, Austin entered this in the baking Candy category winning First Place Youth Candy Entry and BEST in CATEGORY:


    3 cups sugar
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup light corn syrup
    4 cups coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
    2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon


Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Vegetable oil can be use in place of butter, though the butter will enhance flavor.  Next, mix the peanuts, cayenne pepper and cinnamon together and then set aside.  Pour sugar, corn syrup, salt and water together in a large heavy saucepan and boil over medium heat stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until candy thermometer registers 260°F.  Mix in peanuts and butter. Increase heat cooking until thermometer registers 295°F., stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes.  The mix will turn to a lush golden brown.  Add baking soda and vanilla and stir briskly (mixture will foam up). Immediately remove from heat and pour out onto prepared baking sheets, dividing evenly. Spread brittle out as thin as possible and let stand uncovered until cooled and hard. This may take up to 45 minutes depending on room temperature and humidity:  The candy should become hard and not feel sticky.  Once harden, break brittle into pieces for serving or store in an air tight container.

Each year, January 26th is celebrated as, "The National Peanut Brittle Day."  While the first noted recipe for Peanut Brittle was Sarah Rutledge in her 1847edition "The Carolina Housewife,"  I have heard many stories about this candy.  Some come with much folklore such as, lumber jack Tony Beaver saving a flooding town casting the ingredients into the river turning it into peanut brittle. Another is that Irish immigrates who came to the early colonies just after the American Revolution brought the recipe with them.  Though, my favorite was a story around a camp fire about the chuckwagon cook name Nadine Groot. 

Ole Nadine needed to cross the Red River with his Chuckwagon. The river was running rapid an ole Nadine just didn't care much for the water. Perhaps he latched onto fears about the river since he couldn't swim or maybe it was just that he was too afraid he end up getting a bath. Regardless of which scared him most, he was determine to get across without getting wet. His trail boss Thomas Dunson was already bellowing as they moved the herd of cattle across. Nadine wasn't yearning to hear any more hoop la yelling from Mister Dunson.  So, with a crack of the axe, Nadine broke open a whole barrel of molasses pouring it into the river. That Molasses was so thick, the river nearly came to a stop.  Nadine then poured a 50 pound sack of peanuts over the surface throwing in a pinch of salt and baking soda with it. As the peanuts mixed into the molasses, the river soon harden like brick, leaving Nadine able to cross over without getting the slightest bit wet and making a very sweet snack for the wranglers.  Regardless of the folklore or the origin of Peanut Brittle, this Blue Ribbon winner makes a great treat your wranglers will enjoy begging for more. While it can be made weeks in advance, it also makes a great gift.

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