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What is Palm Oil Doing in My Peanut Brittle?

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I stopped by for my weekly examination of food at The Fresh Market here in Mobile.  My goal is to be able to get out there without buying something, but alas, that does not happen very often.  The bakery/sweets department had some delicious looking nut brittles displayed.  They had peanut, almond and granola brittle.  The lady behind the counter said the almond brittle was her fave.  She most kindly offered me samples. (score!)

The granola brittle had pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, oatmeal and a bunch of other stuff. I liked the chewy dried fruit bits.  The peanut brittle was great but the almond brittle didn’t do much for me.  I happened to gaze at the ingredient list and was quite surprised to see palm oil as a major ingredient. Why  is there palm oil in my damn brittle?

Palm oil is used a lot in place of hydrogenated oil which have artery clogging trans fats.  So palm oil is not bad for you, but it is bad for the environment.  It is not a sustainable product.  Vast tracts of forests are being destroyed for palm oil production in Indonesia and other countries.  The clearing of rain forests is the single largest factor for the endangerment of orangutans and other creatures.  Many companies choose to destroy a forest for palm oil production instead of creating a plantation. This way they get immediate cash instead of having to way a few years for production to be viable.  Interesting blog on this here.

A couple of girl scouts/activists brought a lot of attention to the use of palm oil in commercial baked goods and that only a very small percentage of palm oil production is sustainable.  My impression is that Girl Scout cookie bakers are still using palm oil.  Meanwhile these young activists have stopped selling girl scout cookies or consuming any things with palm oil in it.  I bing-searched girl scouts and palm oil and got a ton of stuff. Click here to see my search!

Back to the original question of the purpose of the palm oil in the nut brittle.  I believe it is a preservative.  The store makes a butt load of peanut or almond or whatever nut brittle and wants it to stick around for awhile.  Grandma’s peanut brittle did not have any oil in it.  We didn’t have to preserve it because we ate it up.  I will not be buying The Fresh Market’s brittles.

In the meantime, here is my grandmother’s peanut brittle recipe.  I have never made it myself but it doesn’t look too hard. Note the lack of palm oil.

2 cups raw peanuts
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
 Be sure to have soda and greased cookie sheet ready before you begin cooking candy.
Mix sugar, corn  syrup, and hot water in heavy 4-qt boiler.  Bring to boil, stirring to  completely dissolve sugar.   Then pour in two cups raw peanuts, stir constantly and cook until syrup is very light amber, or until peanuts almost completely quit popping.  Add baking soda and stir rapidly.  Remove from heat immediately and pour on to buttered cookie sheet placed on a hot pad.  Do not spread with spoon.
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