If you find yourself rockin' around the Christmas tree, then clearly it's time for Aunt Bill's Brown Candy.
A holiday tradition in The Oklahoman since the late 1920s, this timeless recipe dates back to The Oklahoman's Aunt Susan, Susan Adams.
Her daily column featured more than recipes; it included fashion advice, product testing and words of encouragement for the lovelorn. Most of all, though, Aunt Susan was a cook. And the recipe that's stood the test of time is her Aunt Bill's Brown Candy.
Adams, author of the “How-to-Cook Book,” once wrote in her column: “You would hardly feel like you were ready for Christmas if you hadn't made some candy to tuck into your boxes, would you? Well, I should certainly feel I failed you if I didn't give you our grand old recipe for Aunt Bill's brown candy. You know I've always told you this is my memorial to a dear courageous friend who was Aunt Bill to all of us and who never was too occupied to give of herself.”
We've run a microwave version (see Swap Shop, below) of the recipe, half-versions and food blogger Molly Wizenberg's modified version. This year, we will run the recipe as it was first passed along before the advent of Sooner Magic, starting in the Roaring Twenties, through the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Watergate, the Murrah Building Bombing, 9/11, the entire run of “Gunsmoke,” the birth and death of the eight-track player, the birth, death and rebirth of the record player, a moon landing, The Beatles, perestroika, Elvis in all his phases and Al Gore's invention of the Internet.
This is a word-for-word version that ran in the Dec. 19, 1931, edition of The Oklahoman.
AUNT BILL'S BROWN CANDY
3 pints white sugar, divided
1 pint whole milk (or cream if you feel that way)
1/4 pound butter
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pounds nut meats (preferably pecans)
To begin with, let me tell you that the full recipe makes more than 6 pounds of candy, so you see it is not as expensive as it may seem. You will find it much easier to manage if two of you are able to make it together, although of course this is not absolutely necessary for I've made loads of it alone.
First, pour one pint of the sugar into a heavy iron skillet and place it over low fire. Begin stirring with a wooden spoon and keep the sugar moving so that it will not scorch at all. It will take almost half an hour to completely melt all of the sugar, and at no time should it smoke or cook so fast that it turns dark. It should be about the color of light brown sugar syrup.
As soon as you have the sugar started to heat in the skillet, pour the remaining two pints of sugar together with the pint of milk or cream into a deep heavy kettle and set it over a low fire to cook along slowly while you are melting the sugar in the skillet.
As soon as all the sugar is melted, begin pouring it into the kettle of simmering milk and sugar, keeping it on very slow heat and stirring constantly. Now the real secret of mixing these ingredients is to pour a very fine stream from the skillet into the pan. Aunt Bill always said to pour a stream no larger than a knitting needle, while stirring across the bottom of the kettle at the same time.
Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture forms a firm ball when dropped into cold water. After this test is made, turn out the fire and immediately add the soda, stirring hard as it foams up. Soon as the soda is mixed, add the butter, allowing it to melt as you stir. Now set the pan of candy off the stove, but not outdoors or in a cold place, for about 10 minutes, then add the vanilla and begin beating. Use a wooden spoon and beat until the mixture is thick and heavy, having a dull appearance instead of a glossy sheen. Add the broken pecan meats and mix. Turn into buttered tin boxes or square pans, where it can be cut into squares when cooled. This candy stays moist and delicious indefinitely. Decorate the pieces of candy with halves of pecans, if desired.