Friday, December 22, 2017

"The Gift-Giver's Cookbook" - Sour Cream Candied Walnuts - Holiday party food!



Date I made this recipe:  December 3, 2017 – Party food!

The Gift-Giver’s Cookbook by Jane Green and Judith Choate
Published by Simon and Schuster
© 1971
Purchased at Bloomington Crime Prevention Association (BCPA) Annual Sale
Recipe:  Sour-Cream Candied Nuts – p. 111

I just have to say this:  Aiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

This freaking recipe, so simple to the eye, so difficult to nail, was almost the death of me as I prepared for our annual holiday party.  By the time I nailed it, I was on my fourth round and almost ready to pitch the pan and all its contents out my back door.

Here are the basic instructions:  Mix sugar and sour cream in a saucepan, heat to 236 degrees, remove from heat and add vanilla. “Beat until mixture thickens and loses its gloss.”

It was that last instruction that just about did me in because folks, you have no idea how hard it was to get that part – the “glossy” part - right.

The first time I added the vanilla, the entire mixture became a toasty-brown color which was not necessarily wrong, but not correct, either.

Attempts “2” and “3” didn’t come out right either.  Mixture two was not smooth enough, and mixture three did not lose its gloss as directed and seriously, how hard was this anyway?

The fourth attempt finally came out right and while the nuts didn’t exactly match photos I found on the internet, they were acceptable enough to grace our party table.  In fact, one friend asked if these were the ones that were giving me problems (I emailed some friends about my frustration) because she couldn’t stop nibbling on them!

Go figure.

Normally, after experiencing frustration like this, I have suggestions on how to fix it, but this time around I don’t except that you either have to keep trying to make this right or find another recipe.  Actually, I do have one suggestion and that is to refrain from adding the walnuts until you are absolutely sure that the coating is to your liking or you’ll be crying; walnuts are not exactly cheap!

Now if the thought of making these nuts scares you (and it shouldn’t because hopefully, it was a one-off situation), there are plenty of other recipes and categories from which to choose:

  • Part I – From the Oven: Fruitcakes…and Others (Fruitcake; Breads; Cookies)
  • Part II – Sweets (Plum Pudding; Candy and Nuts; Jellies, Jams, etc.; Syrups, Sauces and Flavors
  • Part III – Sours (Spiced Fruit and Chutneys; Relishes and Pickles; Savories and Snacks)
  • Part IV – Drinks (Festive Beverages)

Many of these recipes sounded great, but I was after party food and not gift-giving food and I thought the nuts would be a piece of cake to make.  Hardly. In retrospect, I should have gone for a “festive beverage”...with alcohol, but that type of drink is not in our party lineup. (Hilariously, this 1971 cookbook calls “humus” “hoomus” which is likely the correct spelling, but it seemed totally out of place.)

It occurred to me as I was writing this that I have a few other “gift-giving” cookbooks, but none that seem to date that far back.  My “newer” ones are mostly from the year 2000 on up.  Interesting, no?  Did people just fall out of love for hand-made food gifts or what?  I may have to put my “best people” on that one.

This then, concludes my kitchen report otherwise known as “Ah, nuts!”

Sour Cream Candied Nuts – makes about 1 pound
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups walnut halves

Mix sugar and sour cream in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until 236 degrees is reached on a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat and add vanilla.  Beat mixture thickens and loses its gloss.  Ann’s Note:  This will take a while, and if the result is not to your liking, do not add the walnuts!

Add nuts and stir to coat them on all sides. Put on a greased cookie sheet and separate the nuts.

Nuts may be stored individually plastic-wrapped in an airtight container for 2 weeks.


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