Granny’s Peanut Brittle

Elizabeth Turnbull remembers one recipe in particular when it comes time for holiday baking. She grew up with her granny making batches and batches of her peanut brittle as gifts for everyone from the groundskeeper to the president of Haiti. Now she continues with the tradition for her own family.
By | November 15, 2015

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 cups roasted salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 12-inch non-stick skillet
  • Release aluminum foil or silicone mat

Preparation

Line a half-sized sheet pan (13”x18”) with release foil or silicone mat.

Pour corn syrup into skillet over high heat. Add sugar and cinnamon, stirring frequently but not constantly. Boil the mixture until it reaches 280°. You’ll see the first notes of caramelization.

Add peanuts and return to boil. It will be gummy at first. Boil until the mixture reaches 315° and takes on a golden color.

Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Pour immediately onto center of lined baking sheet with care as it is very hot.

When fully cooled, break into pieces. Brittle can be stored in airtight metal containers and shared generously.

About this recipe

Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull are the powers behind Old Havana Cafe in Durham. The couple is obsessed with sourcing only the best local ingredients for their cafe and prepare it with time honored tradition and a tremendous amount of love for their craft, their patrons and their adopted country.

Roberto grew up in communist Cuba, and during his childhood Christmas wasn’t celebrated––it was actually banned as a religious holiday. “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve) was still a day of feasting, but nobody talked about why. And “El Dia de Los Reyes” (Kings Day on January 6) was a day when the government used a lottery system to give out gifts to children. But the “holidays” as such didn’t really exist for him.

Consequently, most of our Christmas traditions come from my family and a few we’re still making for ourselves. Roberto’s the cook in the family, but I’m usually the one who does the holiday baking.

There’s one Christmas treat especially that comes to mind, but it’s not Cuban. My Granny, who lived and served in Haiti for about 60 years, always made Peanut Brittle. My granny was named Bertha, but everyone called her “Granny” — even presidents of Haiti! I’ve continued the tradition and make it most years with my parents in their home. Every year for Christmas, Granny would make batches and batches of her peanut brittle as gifts for everyone from the groundskeeper to the president of Haiti. There’s a beauty and humility in the gift that’s always stuck with me.

Today, when we make it, I think of the peanuts, equally beloved in Cuba, Haiti, and North Carolina. They’ve come to symbolize the places we’ve called home. And now that we’ve moved into our new house at Terra Sacra in Hillsborough, I hope I’ll be able to carry on the tradition—perhaps someday even using peanuts we’ve grown ourselves on the land that we hope will be our home for years to come.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 cups roasted salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 12-inch non-stick skillet
  • Release aluminum foil or silicone mat
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