Candied nuts are the sort of easy recipe I return to again and again. The combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves in this recipe smell like Christmas. They make an excellent snack to put out at a party alongside cheese, crackers, and cocktails. I love to make them for sharing at the holidays. In less than half an hour with very little effort I have a huge batch ready for gifting to teachers, neighbors, or holiday hosts.
Like so many others, my family has its own collection of traditional holiday recipes. Most are known by heart or written in cryptic shorthand on faded recipe cards. In the weeks before Christmas we divide the usual assignments to make sure everyone’s favorite foods will be on the holiday table.
Of course, it is not the food itself that is important. Family recipes are the true ghost of Christmas past. The smell, taste, and even the homemade appearance of our family recipes can transport me right back to Christmas at my grandparents house.
On my trips to the past I can once again feel the warmth of their living room with the lights dimmed and the amber glow of a cozy fire dancing merrily on the walls, inhale the aroma of fresh Douglas fir and holiday cooking, and hear a chorus of laughter – the sort of laughter that comes from people who truly enjoy spending time together.
My grandma used to make all sorts of goodies for Christmas. Busy lady that she was, her specialties were of the no-bake variety. On Christmas Eve she piled plates and trays with Nanimo bars, chocolate covered peanut butter bars, and assorted other bits of deliciousness. I particularly looked forward to her candied nuts with their sugary glaze and warm spices. The best part about the candied nuts was not waiting for dessert to eat them. The sweet treats were often put out in a little dishes for snacking both before and after our holiday dinner.
A few years ago I wanted to make a batch of candied nuts for the holidays so I asked her for the recipe. Unfortunately, though she recalled it being very simple, she couldn’t remember exactly how she made them nor find the recipe among her many clipped from years of newspapers and magazines.
Thanks to a great inspiration recipe and a little bit of experimenting with spices – I now have a recipe that, while not exactly the same, is similar enough to spark the memories. To make a big batch easy, I designed this recipe to use a single 2 1/2 pound, Costco sized, jar of mixed nuts. If you would like to make a small batch, refer to the inspiration for this recipe, Candied Pumpkin Seeds by the extremely talented Irvin Lin of eatthelove.com.
I will be gifting jars of candied nuts to my family and friends this holiday season and, hopefully, stirring-up a few happy memories in the process.
- 2 ½ lbs (9 cups) unsalted fancy mixed nuts (or the nut of your choosing)
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
- 6 tbsp vodka
- Line two baking pans with parchment paper.
- In a large soup pot - pour in the nuts then top with the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon - the mixture will begin powdery, turn syrupy, then become very thick and sticky (10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat when most of the the liquid has evaporated.
- Turn the candied nuts onto the lined baking sheets and spread into an even layer. Allow the nuts to cool completely before serving or packaging.