Peanut Queen and the Goober Bake Off

Beer.

Bacon.

Peanut Brittle.

What else could you possibly want?

Jalapeños?

Oh, alright…

I love Peanut Brittle.  I’ve been making it for years. I grew up around peanuts you see…

I grew up in Eastland TX and in 1991 I moved to San Antonio.  Every time I would travel home to Eastland I would pass through Gorman TX.  Gorman is on State Highway 6 and Farm Road 8 on the southeastern edge of Eastland County. I’m sure you know exactly where it is now…

Gorman was a huge peanut town, home to Birdsong Peanut Co.  The sandy soil of Gorman was perfect to grow peanuts.  The first peanut-shelling machine in Texas was used in Gorman in 1940, and in 1986 Gorman had one of the most efficient shelling plants in the United States, making it the Peanut Capital of the Southwest. Both the Texas Peanut Producers Board and the Southwest Peanut Growers’ Association were headquartered in Gorman; the latter ran the western Peanut Price Support Program for the United States Department of Agriculture.

And of course there was a festival!

I always wondered what was so important about the First Saturday that it bumped the Gorman Peanut Festival to the second Saturday. Maybe it gave everyone time to get ready for the Gorman Goober Bake-off!

 

If there are categories for Cakes and Pies, cookies and candy… I wonder what “Other” would be?

Did you catch the part about a Peanut Queen?

I don’t think I ever met a Peanut Queen…

I wonder if they are automatically disqualified if they have an allergy to peanuts.

When I traveled home to Eastland for visits or holidays I would usually leave San Antonio after work at 5 pm (or 11pm…) and drive home.  From San Antonio to Eastland is about a  4 hour drive (or longer if you got stuck behind a slow RV on the single lane highway). After a long day of work, even driving 4 hours got a bit monotonous…  so I did what most people do….

…eat and sing.

No matter how tired I was or what time of day I went roaring through Gorman I ALWAYS rolled down the windows because not only did they grow peanuts there, not only did they shell them there, but they ROASTED them there too!

Talk about a real treat! Imagine driving into a Peanut Butter jar… and a peanut butter man is baking peanut butter cookies.

If this meme were around then I’d have stopped my car, put on a banana suit and shook my maracas in the middle of TX State Hughway 6.  (…and subsequently been arrested for disturbing the peace.) People who know me know I would ✨probably✨ Actually do this…

Anyway…  smelling roasting peanuts was a nice way to announce to myself that I only had 20 more minutes left to the drive…

One Christmas I left San Antonio at midnight.  There’s was a problem with my air conditioning and somehow it fogged up my window and dripped water into my passenger floorboard, even when the air was off…  Somehow the radiator was backflowing into the air vents?

Yeah, real healthy…

“Ok, so…  just so I’m clear, it’s midnight, I have ZERO money on the bank, my car is venting radiator fumes onto the windshield from the inside while dripping radiator fluid into the passenger floorboard.  Great, let’s get in and drive for 4 hours on icy roads with the window down so I can see.”

ah… youth…

Yup… I drove all the way with all my windows down. I was feeezing the entire way but I was STILL happy to have the windows down when I drove through Gorman.

I’m not too sure they enjoyed me driving through though.  I was usually blaring some kind of music like Nine Inch Nails or Siouxsie and the Banshees.  “Jeepers Creepers” featured prominently in my cassette mixtape.

So, the point of all that reminiscing was to talk about peanuts, and I was hoping there would be a slick sort of segue from the trips through Gorman to my new recipe AND how it relates to Father’s Day… but alas, that didn’t happen.

So..

Hey guys, here’s my new recipe for  Beer Bacon Jalapeño Peanut Brittle.

You should totally make it for Father’s Day!

…n stuff.

All awkward transition aside, I made this last night and we couldn’t stop eating it!

Use any kind of beer you want.  The darker you use the more flavor you will be able to taste. I used Boston Lager by Sam Adams and the Brittle could actually have handled a stronger base flavor.

Throw the sugar, corn syrup, salt, beer and Jalapeño together in at least a 2 qt saucepan.  This is going to bubble and spit, and cleaning cooked sugar off the stove in never fun.  Trust me.

I only used 1 Jalapeño in my batch, but it could have used 2.  There was practically no burn…  I wanted the conversation to go like this:

“Oh this is crunchy, and sweet, now I’m tasting peanuts, and something smoky! Oh that’s the bacon, and it’s got a zesty subtle bitterness from hops, and a slow roll lingering burn at the end.”

I think I short-changed the slow roll lingering burn.  Now you know.  I’m not perfect.

Almost, but not quite…

…right.  SO ALMOST PERFECT that I forgot to take more pictures after this.

It’s simple though.  Clip on your candy thermometer.  Watch it.  It will seem like it’s taking forever to reach 300°. It takes a while to burn off the liquid in the beer.  Once the thermometer reaches 280° watch it like a hawk because it shoots up FAST.

When it hits 300° move the pan off the heat and add the butter and baking soda, roasted unsalted peanuts and the bacon in and stir.  The baking soda causes a honeycomb effect and you want to capture it as quickly as possible.  The more you stir the flatter it gets.

Pour the Brittle out onto the sprayed pans or onto the Silpat mat.

Get a Silpat, if you don’t already have one.

Its time.

You’ll use it.

Trust me.

Now… you can spread this with forks, pushing and pulling and tugging the Brittle thin. You want it to be as single layer as you can get it.

Most bakers I know have teflon fingers.  I don’t know why…  maybe it’s all that cake patting in the over to test doneness.  I wait till the edges of the Brittle are touchable and I tug from opposite corners to spread it out.  I’m not advocating this method because you JUST cooked it to 300° and you know it’s hot. I feel like it might be irresponsible of me to suggest, you know, touching it.  I’m just saying, it’s what I do…

so…

Now, if you are wondering about the bacon, and how much…  obviously the answer is always “All the bacon.” I used all the bacon that was left…  4 pieces of bacon mysteriously disappeared. I always bake my bacon too, so it’s nice and crisp and easy to crumble up.  It’s also because of the bacon that I feel like the Brittle should be stored in the refrigerator (you know, if you don’t eat it all in one sitting…) Probably the cured nature of the bacon, and the way it’s covered in sugar makes this safe to leave out…  probably… but I ALWAYS err on the side of safety and you’ve got moisture from the jalapeños which might start something growing… So, wrap it tight and put it in the fridge.  It might get sticky in there, but it’s still going to be delicious.

or… just do like we did and eat it all.

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