“Wait, she’d say. “Watch it. You’ll know.” It was 10 years ago this holiday season that I last made peanut brittle with my Mom. She’d taught me years earlier, maybe when I was around 10 or 11. Her recipe is simple: raw Spanish peanuts, white Karo, sugar. A quarter stick of butter and some baking soda thrown in at the end.

The end is the tricky part. Clara Nell never used a candy thermometer in her life. “It’ll change color, and you’ll know. Wait, watch it, keep stirring.”

I have never been a patient cook; I wasn’t allowed to make the skillet potatoes: “Dana Michelle, you mess with them too much and they’ll never get crunchy.”

Peanut brittle always feels like eternity, stirring and watching and waiting. I’ve made it every year since she passed and every single time I think, “I’ve forgotten. I’m going to screw it up. Pull it too soon.” Commit the high crime of making peanut taffy instead of brittle.

I wait. I watch. I stir. And, eventually, it always turns. From clear to light tan to golden, and then it’s time. Kerry has been close by on call, ready when I say go, just like when I was a kid and Clara Nell said, “Now!” We toss the butter and baking soda in and the molten concoction transforms, gets puffy and airy. Kerr tilts the pan and I spoon it out onto the buttered sheet pan as quick as we can so it doesn’t set up in the pot.

It’s candy napalm at this point and I know from experience it will continue cooking right into your skin if you’re careless and sling some on yourself. It flows across the pan like peanut lava, and you don’t spread it because you want those air bubbles.

Because it’s a winter dish, never spring or summer, we take it outside to cool down (we had a brick ledge on our front porch growing up where it sat to cool; here we take it to the garage).

Then, more waiting, and hoping, till it’s cool enough. Bring it in and lift it up out of the pan, one solid chunk of buttery, perfectly hardened brittle that I snap into bite sized pieces with my hands.

Pops got the first piece tonight, and nodded. We made a good batch, Mom.


1 cup of white Karo

2 cups sugar

3 cups raw peanuts

1/4 stick margarine

2 tsp of baking soda

Cook the karo, sugar and raw peanuts together until peanuts start popping and mixture turns from clean to tan. Do not over cook. Remove from heat; add 1/4 stick of margarine and soda. Mix, and then pour on buttered cookie sheet. Let cool and break. Serve.