Buckeye Candy for St. Nicholas Day

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In honor of the patron saint of children, Heather Melton, United Thank Offering Missioner, offers her recipe for Buckeye Candy and a reflection on how it became an important tradition for her:

“One of my earliest memories is making Buckeyes with my grandmother.  (Sometimes I think I remember it because she wasn’t a very good cook; in fact, I don’t remember any other recipe or food that she ever made for or with me, but her buckeyes are still the best recipe so it makes up for all of the boxed fish sticks!)  I remember that since I was very little, my job was to smooth out the hole that the toothpick left in the top of the buckeye.  I remember her standing guard over the chocolate, rhythmically dipping each peanut butter ball, over and over again for the entire day, adjusting the heat on the double boiler as she went.

Each year towards the beginning of Advent, I set aside one day and make more buckeyes than I care to count, to give to friends and loved ones as a sign of love and luck for the holiday season. I only make them once a year because they are a lot of work.  I make them from a handwritten list of ingredients that my mother read to me over the phone the first Christmas that I lived outside of Ohio. No instructions were needed, because after 21 years, the rhythm of making buckeyes was knit into the fabric of my heart.

This year, my twins are two-years-old,and they will eat buckeyes for the first time and ‘help’ me make them.  My hope is that one day they, too, will find that making buckeyes is somehow knit into the fabric of their hearts as well.

You may be thinking, really, candy is what you want them to have as a deep memory?  First of all, buckeyes are delicious when made correctly. (Some people get experimental with their buckeyes and that is just wrong…white chocolate, rice krispies, crunchy peanut butter are not welcome in a buckeye.) Second, buckeye candies, for me, are a reminder of the hope that comes in the incarnation, and the hope that each new generation brings to a family shown in the traditions that are handed down one to another.

Buckeyes are considered good luck in the state of Ohio. William Henry Harrison draped his buckeye log cabin house in garlands of buckeyes when he ran for president. Some people believe that if you carry a buckeye in your pocket it can cure arthritis.  What I love about the buckeye is that when you see it growing on the tree, it’s a spiky ball that doesn’t look like anything you want to touch, but break it open and you find a beautiful, shiny smooth nut.  Every story of the buckeye that I know has the buckeye at the center of a deep hope of a person, community (I’m looking at you Ohio State fans), or family for things to be better or different then they are.  All of this makes Buckeyes a fitting Christmas candy, because Christmas is a reminder of the hope that God had for our world to be better.

As we prepare for Christmas, we are reminded that God sent his child, in a most unexpected way, into a broken and hurting world in the hopes of transforming it into something better.  We are reminded during Advent that Emmanuel not only means God with us, but God within us.  Each Christmas we are reminded that the only way the world will be better is if we work together to make it better, we are the sign of hope and joy and love that God sends out into the world this day and every day.

So each year I make Buckeyes, a labor of love, to serve as a reminder of the ways we are connected and the ways that God is making all things new…a poisonous nut becomes a candy that symbolizes my profound love and respect for those around me.  I hope that one day my daughters will make buckeye candy on their own to give as a sign of their love and respect to those around them.  More importantly, I hope that my girls (and their buckeyes) will be signs of the love of God to a world that is hurting and desperately in need of some sweetness.  I hope that they, like their mother before them, will give thanks for the women of our family who passed this tradition along, who stood guard over the stove to make sure that once a year there would be buckeyes in abundance, at a time of year when we are reminded of the abundance of God’s love and our job to share that love with the world.”

My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. ~ Proverbs 4:20-21


Buckeye Candy
Makes 6 dozen (depending on how big you make the balls)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (8 oz)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 small package of chocolate chips (Use your favorite chocolate. I recommend using bittersweet)
  • 1 tablespoon edible wax, optional

Mix together peanut butter, butter and vanilla.

Stir in powdered sugar. If using an electric mixer, you may need additional powdered sugar. The mixture should be firm and when rolled into balls, they shouldn’t stick to your hands or fingers when you touch them. Use powdered sugar to keep your hands mostly clean.

If sticky, add more powdered sugar. If it is too firm (meaning it cracks when you try and roll it or tastes more like sugar and less like peanut butter), add more peanut butter.

Roll peanut butter into balls and refrigerate until firm.

Use a double boiler to melt chocolate chips, but then allow it to cool until it is just at the point where it will solidify again. If you do not want to fuss with this, you can add edible wax (available at the grocery store), which will help the chocolate to harden faster. (You only need about 2 tablespoons’ worth.)  One other option is to use a nice chocolate bar, especially a dark chocolate and a Hershey’s bar, because the wax content is so high in Hershey’s that it will allow the buckeyes to dry fairly fast.

Using a skewer, you dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate, covering most of the peanut butter. I find that tapping off the extra chocolate helps it set faster.

If the peanut butter falls into the chocolate, it is either not cold enough or it needs additional powdered sugar.

Put the dipped candy onto a cold baking pan lined with parchment.

Once the tray is full, put it in the fridge to harden. It is best to keep these cold so they are less messy.

Submitted by: Heather Melton, Missioner, United Thank Offering, The Episcopal Church

For a downloadable/printable version of this recipe, visit: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/blog/advent/resources

Tomorrow: Adobong Pork from the Philippines

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