When I was a child in the 60s and early 70s, we visited my Mom’s sister, my Aunt Gerry. often. She lived in Jersey just across the river from Philly (Philadelphia).
Our drive included traveling Route 61 through the tiny borough of Port Clinton (PA), an old canal and railroad town near the intersection of Pa. Route 61 and Interstate 78 in Schuylkill County. On the main street — busy Rt. 61 — is the Port Clinton Peanut Shop. If you blink while driving by, you will miss it. But it is a fixture in the town and has been for many decades.
Still in business today, they have old-fashioned/nostalgic candy, fudge, and they still roast peanuts fresh on the premises. But it was the peanut brittle I remember most and the treat that sparked my child’s imagination as I spotted the Pagoda in Reading (Pa.) on the mountainside headed home on Route 61 and KNEW it would not be long before we were able to stop at the Peanut Shop.
Now, let me tell you, Rt. 61 is busy. I mean REALLY busy. The kind of busy where multiple lanes of traffic zip by so fast a parked car rocks in their wake. Back in the 60’s and early 70’s, my poor Dad (actually, my super brave, best in the world, no one like MY Dad) would pull in to a hard-to-come by parking spot on the northbound side of Rt. 61, get out the car, and take his life in his hands – literally – to sprint across the highway and into the Peanut Shop. He would return, repeating his death-defying feat, arms loaded with bags of freshly roasted peanuts in the shell and — peanut brittle!
Every time I page through my recipe file and see this recipe, I am 10 years old again, sitting in the back seat of the family’s blue Buick Electra, nose pressed up against the side rear window, waiting for him to emerge from the Port Clinton Peanut Shop with those treasures. I miss you so much, Pop. And it is only now, later in my life, that I realize just how truly enjoyable life was when you still were in it.
Tips for making brittle
A good candy thermometer is your friend. It is well worth the investment.
- Use care when working with hot sugar syrup mixtures – they are very hot and can stick to your skin if contact is made and cause deep burns.
- Have all your ingredients ready and prep your cooling pan before starting the process
Homemade Peanut BrittleCourse: Recipes, Sweet ThingsCuisine: Coal Region, Pa. DutchDifficulty: Intermediate
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter plus more for the pan if using
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups dry roasted or raw peanuts
- Prepare and gather all ingredients and prepare a large low-sided baking sheet by lining with parchment paper, a silicone mat, or lightly buttering surface.
- Place sugar, corn syrup, water, and 2 Tablespoon butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Boil without stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 240.
- Add peanuts, and cook 2 to 3 more minutes or until temp hits 285 to 290F. (The cooked mixture should be golden brown.) Watch temperature carefully, it can go beyond this quickly and ruin your batch.
- Remove from heat, and stir in baking soda, salt and vanilla extract. Be careful, mixture can bubble up when making these additions and it is VERY HOT!!
- Pour mixture onto a prepared metal shallow pan. Quickly spread the brittle by tilting the pan and allowing the mixture to flow across the pan to all edges forming a thin layer.
- Allow to stand several minutes or until cooled and hardened. Break into pieces.
- Optional: Drizzle with melted chocolate chips.