My mother doesn’t like to cook. To compensate, she loves any trick that allows her to produce impressive results with minimal effort. Her bag of tricks holds ice cream pie, anything with bacon, and these killer candied pecans that transform the simplest salad into a pricey restaurant specialty.
My mom has been making these nuts for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember, dinner guests, potluck attendees and strangers have marveled at these nuts, and that my mother made them at home. They’re excellent for snacking on their own or in salads.
My mother-in-law asks me to make these when I visit, and this year she requested a big jar for Christmas. (She hides them from my father-in-law so they don’t disappear while she’s out!)
To properly execute this recipe, you need a little patience, and a firm confidence that the plain white table sugar in your pan will actually melt and become caramel when it reaches 366.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Martha’s Sugared Nuts
- ½ cup white table sugar
- 2 cups pecans, slivered almonds, walnut halves, or other nuts, as desired
- pinch kosher salt
Consider one of the following, all optional:
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch cloves
- generous pinch cayenne
- Line a cooling rack with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
- Heat sugar, nuts and spices in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. (Any skillet will work, but you are making caramel, which is notoriously rough on nonstick pans. Stainless steel is preferable only for the sake of your pan.) Stir occasionally with wooden spoon. Do not add water. After several minutes, the sugar will begin to look sticky.
- Continue to stir. After several more minutes, the sugar will begin to melt. Continue to stir gently.
- When sugar is completely melted, empty contents of skillet into thin layer onto prepared rack.
- Let cool and break into pieces. Store in cookie tin or glass jar with tightly fitting lid.
(Note: if the sugar does not seem to be melting after about five minutes, your stove may not be hot enough. Increase the heat to medium and continue as directed. Monitor very carefully.)