Peanut Brittle - A Brittle Sweet Story
by Laurnie Wilson
January 26th is National Peanut Brittle day!
In honor of this sugary celebration, a little history of the sweet stuff is sure to hit the spot. Even though the sweet peanutty goodness is only available around the holidays, it's only appropriate to celebrate. For off-season substitutes, check out crunchy items like Atkinson's Peanut Butter Bars in our Peanut Candy Section.
Peanut brittle is beloved by many, both young and old. There’s something addicting in that salty-sweet crunch that keeps people coming back time and time again. But did you know that this popular treat may very well be an American invention? That’s right. And an American folk hero of yore may have helped garner its fame. In fact, peanut brittle’s place in American pop culture is certainly an established one.
To Whom Should We Send Thanks?
There are almost as many stories about the creation of peanut brittle as there are recipes for how to make it. While numerous cultures have been whipping up nut and syrup creations for centuries, it’s very likely that the peanut brittle we know and love is American in origin.
Why So Brittle?
Legend tells us that around the year 1890, a Southern woman created peanut brittle by mistake. Apparently she was making taffy when she added baking soda instead of cream of tartar. However, not wanting to waste the ingredients, she continued cooking it, resulting in a crunchy brittle instead of a chewy taffy.
Another version of the tale, also Southern in origin, credits fabled hero Tony Beaver with the birth of the brittle.
For those of you not acquainted with Tony Beaver, he’s a character in Southern folklore, often referred to as the cousin of Paul Bunyan. As the story goes, Beaver saved a town from flood by pouring peanuts and molasses into the river. In the end, the town was saved and the people had a delicious treat to commemorate the occasion.
Open to Interpretation
No matter which story you choose, it’s hard to dispute that peanut brittle is a Southern invention: a fact not hard to believe considering the popularity of peanut growing in warmer climes. But lucky for us, this Southern secret has made its way across the country, and across the world. So you can enjoy this American innovation, wherever you are.