It is bedtime, but I want to stay in the kitchen with my mother instead of going to bed. I want to see what she is going to do with this delicious smell she is making. I peer into the skillet, craning my neck from my perch on the table top and I see she is stirring peanuts in that skillet. Two empty cans of Planter's cocktail peanuts, along with their pull-off metal pop-tops are on the countertop nearby. I look at the blue cans and smile at Mr. Peanut. He is so dapper with his cane, top hat and monocle. It does not occur to my five-year-old mind that peanuts don't wear spats and white gloves, nor do they have legs and arms to hold canes, nor do they look like they are about to tip their hats at you. It all seems completely normal. I remember thinking that Mr. Peanut is quite charming. I wonder if he knows what is happening to all his buddies that used to live in those cans.
|Photo by Christian Montone; vintage 1960's peanut can (2009)|
I can hear music, faintly. My father, in his study, preparing lesson plans. He likes to play Mozart on a portable phonograph while he works. My younger brothers have both been put to bed and I have my mother to myself. And in that skillet on the stove where that exquisite smell is emanating from, she is making her spiced nuts. She does this every Christmas season. She will package them in the cellophane and tie them with curled red and green ribbons and then share them with friends and family. She will make sure that we have some for ourselves as well. They will be kept in a Tupperware container like one of these on the counter top. Then the nuts will be gone for another year.
The story behind the spiced nut recipe, a recipe I've never seen anywhere else in my perpetual search for spiced and seasoned nuts, is this: My mother was part of a women's support group when she and my father were in seminary school. The recipe was passed on by the group's leader along with the nuts. Where the recipe originated from is not known, but it is an old recipe and it had been part of my mother's Christmas tradition every year.
Try these nuts. They're easy, fabulously addictive and they make great gifts.
Merry Christmas and thanks for passing on the recipe, Mom!
My Mother's Spiced Christmas Nuts
You can easily double, triple or quadruple this recipe. I have also found that you can increase the quantity of nuts from 2 to 3 cups, make the same amount of sugar-spice coating and get great results.
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbs. oil or butter
2 cups salted peanuts (if using dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, add 1 tsp. salt to spice mixture)
1.) Blend together confectioner's sugar and spices; add salt if using unsalted nuts.
2.) Put 3 Tbs. spice mixture in a large skillet with oil or butter.
3.) Add nuts and stir until coated.
4.) Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes.
5.) Cool nuts and toss with remaining spice mixture.
6.) Store airtight. Makes about 2 cups.