Cathie Campbell

Homemade holiday candy

Most of us don’t have a lot of time to spare around Christmas time, including myself, but there are a few things on my to-do list that have become so traditional that my family insists on having them every year. Homemade candies at our house are pretty much the same things every Christmas: English toffee (sometimes called butter crunch), various types of fudge, popcorn balls, peanut brittle and sugared walnuts. I used to always prepare candied orange peel, but it is getting so I find the mess to be a bit much. Still love the stuff, but I’m giving that a little break for a while and so far, nobody’s complained. Yet. If you would like to make some homemade candy for the holiday season, I am more than happy to share with you my family’s favorite recipes. Here’s wishing that you are all safe and warm and continue to be so all through this winter. The mixed-up weather has my garden plants doing some odd things. The rosemary is blooming, my fig trees are making new leaves and I have daffodils already at least three inches above the soil line. Well, let’s get on with the recipes; that candy isn’t going to make itself.

English toffee

You can use semi-sweet chocolate in this recipe if you prefer, or even white chocolate.

1 pound butter

2 cups sugar

Almonds or walnuts

1 large milk chocolate bar (like the big Hershey’s bars often used in baking)

1.Butter a jelly-roll pan, then sprinkle with medium chopped almonds or walnuts.

2. In a heavy saucepan, cook butter and sugar to hard-crack stage. Mixture will be a golden brown.

3. Pour immediately over nuts in pan and spread evenly. When cool, spread with half of the melted chocolate bar and sprinkle with very finely chopped nuts before the chocolate coating hardens.

4. Tamp down with back of wooden spoon so nuts will adhere to the chocolate. When cool, turn over on waxed paper and repeat chocolate-nut process.

Carnation world-famous fudge

I always seem to go back to this old recipe no matter how many new ones I try.

1  1/2 cups sugar

 2/3 cup (5-fluid ounces) Carnation evaporated milk

2 tablespoons butter

 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1  1/2 cups (9 ounces) Nestle Toll House semisweet chocolate morsels *see note

 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil. (I like to smear a bit of butter over it.)

2. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate morsels, nuts and vanilla. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.

Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into pieces. Makes about 49 pieces.

*Note: for milk chocolate fudge, substitute 1  3/4 cups (11.5-ounce package) Nestle Toll House milk chocolate morsels instead of using the semi-sweet ones.

Peanut brittle

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, Alice Campbell, decades ago. It is very good.

2 cups sugar

 1/2 cup water

1 cup clear Karo corn syrup

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

1. Lightly butter a jelly-roll pan. In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar, water and corn syrup to hard-crack stage on a candy thermometer.

2. Add the raw peanuts and cook them about 2 minutes or until they turn a light brown.

3. Add the baking soda, butter and vanilla (mixture will foam up and turn lighter in color), mix well and immediately pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly if need be.

4. Allow to cool, then break apart into pieces. Store in an airtight tin to preserve crispness.

Jell-O popcorn balls

I love popcorn balls that are chewy, so this recipe fits the bill nicely. When I used to make the crunchy kind,

I always had a hard time evenly coating the popcorn before the candy mixture hardened.

1 cup clear Karo corn syrup

 1/2 cup sugar

1 package (3-ounces) Jell-O gelatin, any flavor (I like lime and cherry or strawberry during Christmas)

9 cups popped corn (remove all unpopped kernels)

1. In a heavy saucepan, bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add Jell-O, stirring until dissolved.

2. Pour mixture over popcorn in a large mixing bowl, stirring well to coat evenly.

3. Form into balls, using buttered hands. Wrap when cool, using plastic wrap and tie with curling ribbon.

Note: I find the mixture to be less sticky if I wait a few minutes before shaping into balls, even though the original recipe says to do it right away.

Spiced sugared walnuts

My Italian Nana always made these, partly because we had several walnut trees that provided us with the means to make many delicious treats.

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

6 tablespoons milk (can be half cream and half water or half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 pound (about 4 cups) walnut halves, picked over to remove any shell pieces

1. Lightly oil cookie sheet. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, milk and orange peel in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

2. Bring to a boil, cover and let boil 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover, wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and continue to cook, without stirring, to soft-ball stage (236).

3. Remove from heat, add vanilla and nuts and stir vigorously (hopefully not breaking up the walnut halves too much) until creamy. Spread out on the cookie sheet and separate nuts. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin at room temperature.