It is time to revisit the Candy section of the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and today seemed like a day for Peanut Brittle (p. 275). I decided to try the recipe submitted by Winnie Murray.
So far I haven’t found out about Winnie Murray except some extreme speculating. I’m not even sure if Winnie or perhaps Winnifrid lived in this area. I’ve included the following information since it’s a possibility and interesting. I found a 16-year-old Winnie Murray and 17-year-old Sarah Graydon who were living as a boarders in the Embro (near Stratford) home of 54-year-old Miss Christina Murray and her widowed sister 66-year-old Miss Ann Glendening in 1901. By the 1911 census the same household consists of Christina and a 25-year-old adopted daughter named Hughena W. Murray. Could Hughena W. be Winnie? What is the story? Were they related? Does this have anything to do with home children? There was a receiving house for home children in Stratford.
I have fond memories of my parents making peanut brittle for special occasions. It was a two person job and one done by adults in my household. I remember the long wait for the mixture to reach the perfect temperature on the candy thermometer and then the alert to get out of the way as the syrup was poured over the pan of peanuts. Then it was all hands on deck to quickly spread it out thinly. I always tried to create a section with very few peanuts since I didn’t like them very much. There was a long wait until it was hard enough and then we were allowed to attack it and break it into pieces. We were allowed a small piece before the rest were packed away to be served to guests.
Somehow Winnie’s recipe seems much simpler. I shelled Ontario peanuts I bought at the Kitchener Market and put them in the oven at around 200 degrees F. to warm. Then I put the sugar in a pan on the stove on a very low heat. It took over half an hour for the sugar to melt into syrup which might be longer than necessary. I’m extremely cautious when working with hot sugar as I’ve had a few boil overs, burns and even a had it catch on fire. I still ended up with it over cooked a bit. It is important to watch it carefully. I took the pan off the stove and the peanuts out of the oven. I poured the peanuts in and quickly stirred. I had a cookie sheet already greased with butter so it was easy to spoon the mixture onto the sheet and tip it so it spread out. I forgot to mark it with squares (probably thinking of my family’s method). It didn’t take long for it to cool and harden enough to break a piece to sample.
Winnie Murray’s peanut brittle is good and fairly easy to make. It isn’t much like my parents version which had baking soda and vanilla in it. I still prefer my family recipe but I’ll try this one again. A modern cook might want to try making it with other types of nuts.
2 cups of granulated sugar, 1 cup of peanuts shelled and chopped fine.
Put peanuts in the oven to get warm. Measure sugar in a granite sauce pan and stir constantly over the fire until melted to a golden brown syrup and all lumps have disappeared. Add warm peanuts quickly, stir them in and pour at once into a warm buttered tin pan and spread them by tilting the pan. Mark in squares.