Jane Gay's Legendary Peanut Brittle
My mom made the best peanut brittle there ever was and anyone that knew her was gifted peanut brittle at Christmas. Cans of it would even make its way to Alabama for the family gatherings and she shipped a few packages each year after carefully packaging it in hopes it wouldn’t break in transit. People would save those good old 1 lb. metal coffee cans year-round and friends would bring her bags of raw peanuts in hopes she would reciprocate with some of her delicious peanut brittle.
Daddy’s customers and friends enjoyed it at Gay and Young Motor Company, the bankers enjoyed it when she worked at the bank, the Commissioners looked forward to it at the county courthouse, the doctors, her pastors, the postal workers, the butcher, the grocery store owners, the service station owners, the UPS workers and I could go on and on with all of the people around town she shared with.
She carefully planned her peanut brittle making schedule because she needed the perfect weather. You could not make peanut brittle if there was the slightest chance of rain predicted. I can remember years when she was distraught, worrying if there would be enough pretty, sunny days to get enough made for Christmas because she needed so much. As a child I rode many miles (in Big Lake) running to doors to drop off peanut brittle as she drove around delivering. I never quite figured out why it couldn’t be a year around treat, but no it was just a Christmas treat for us.
I cannot count the friends that came to our house while we were growing up to learn how to make her peanut brittle. She never minded sharing her recipe, but I think she really enjoyed teaching her skills as much as she enjoyed giving it away. On “peanut brittle day” the entire breakfast bar was cleared of every obstacle to give her plenty of room. She liked her old worn out cookie sheets that did not have sides because they were better for stretching and she had very specific pans that she used. Everything was pre-measured, set aside and ready to go because she would have to work so quickly when it was in the proper stage. I can remember her having me stirring and watching the candy thermometer for the next batch as she poured one that was ready.
As an adult I didn’t go back to help with peanut brittle very much because I knew she would make me some anyway. Shame on me! Bobby was the one that would go on “peanut brittle making day” and help make it, usually because she was making him some to give as gifts for his friends and co-workers. Recently Lorri (McKinney) Jenkins tagged me in a post on FB where she had replied that Jane Gay’s peanut brittle was the BEST! Her dad always got peanut brittle at S & S at Christmas, so I’m sure she enjoyed years of mom’s peanut brittle. A week or so after Lorri’s post I bought some peanuts, but they just sat on the shelf in the pantry.
Yesterday another friend, Vicki Joyce messaged me to see if I was willing to share mom’s recipe, which I gladly did! I’d been contemplating whether I wanted to give it shot after about 46 years of no practice and the fact I had never made it alone in my life! The peanuts were still on the shelf but I just kept putting it off. Vicki and Lorri inspired me. I cleared the counter, got everything pre-measured, buttered my pans and got started. As I carefully went through the process my mind was flooded with memories of the smell, the sights of her kitchen, a few burnt fingers while pulling and an occasional scorch, (which I can tell you did not make her happy) the deliveries, the smiles of all of the friends receiving their treat.
Me making my first batch of peanut brittle alone was bittersweet. Happiness and enjoyment reliving those days in my memories and then a sadness that my mom can no longer make her peanut brittle because her mind won’t let her and realizing so many of the friends she made peanut brittle for, are no longer with us. For a brief moment I saw those faces of so many family members and friends that were so loved and I heard their voices of excitement when the peanut brittle arrived. My first batch was a success, even “mom tested” and approved! Larry, Neil and Eric both were in shock that I made peanut brittle, Neil even said “Are you picking up where Grandmamma left off?” My reply was that it wasn’t as good as hers but I thought I did pretty darn good! It tasted good but I felt like it was missing just one ingredient, that was mom’s love that she put into each batch.