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The best candy is made with love.

This is candy making season for my family. We each make a variety of sweets every year, but seem to specialize in one particular thing. My mom’s specialty is pecan brittle. No one, and I mean no one, makes pecan brittle like my mom. The surface is shiny enough to see your reflection. The color is that of fine bourbon, and the texture is crisp and crunchy. She always breaks it as soon as it’s ready and puts it directly in tins.

One of the reasons that the brittle you buy in the store doesn’t stay crunchy is because it needs to be stored in a metal container. Plastic makes it chewy and soggy. If you buy brittle, make sure it’s in a tin instead of a plastic bag.

My sister loves to experiment in the kitchen. She’s always coming up with a new concoction to add to our holiday treats. She made chocolate covered bacon a couple years ago that was really good. I felt doubly guilty eating it, but I couldn’t stop myself. I know it sounds like a weird combination, but the flavors married quite well. She’s a true master in the kitchen.

I think my sister’s pecan pralines are her specialty. They’re certainly the best I’ve ever had. They have a sweet buttery flavor with a rich and creamy texture. Pralines require undivided attention. Walking away from the stove while you have a batch under way could prove disastrous. It’s really a labor of love.

My specialty is peanut butter balls. My coworkers start asking for them around Thanksgiving. I learned long ago that the secret to great peanut butter balls is the kind of peanut butter used. There are only two brands of peanut butter I use in my candy.  I use Jif and Peter Pan. I prefer Jif Extra Crunchy for my peanut butter balls. Jif isn’t very oily, so it forms a ball well. Peter Pan Crunchy is also really good in peanut butter balls, but has more oil in it. While the flavor is just as good, it takes me longer to form the balls, which is why I usually use Jif. I use Peter Pan in my peanut butter fudge. I’ve tried other brands of peanut butter in my candy, but they didn’t perform nearly as well as Jif and Peter Pan. I guess you could say I’m a peanut butter snob.

Using high quality ingredients is key to our success. We only use pure vanilla extract, fresh chocolate, and local pecans. While we are all frugal with our funds, we refuse to skimp on candy making supplies. In fact, my bottle of vanilla extract was hand made by a woman who sells her creations at our local farmer’s market. She makes her vanilla from vanilla beans that she imports from Madagascar. The price is steep, but the flavor is incomparable.

You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” As with most things in life, your candy is only as good as what you put into it. Always remember to add the secret ingredient, which is love.

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