This is a food post.


It’s also my emergency solution for drop-in guests who call to say, “Merry Christmas! Mind if we drop in for a minute?” then show up with platters of decorated cookies before you’ve even slit open the bag of chocolate chips. More than that, it makes your house smell so good they won’t notice that the sofa pillows aren’t quite straight and you’re still in your cozy bedroom slippers at 4 p.m.

So here it is, the easiest candy I’ve ever made: Spiced nuts.

In a large glass bowl, put 3 parts sugar and 1 part evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed, just the plain old evaporated) and whatever sweet spices you happen to have around. That’s the basics; everything else is to taste.

I generally use: 1/2 C. evaporated milk, 1 1/2 C granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves, a good sprinkle of nutmeg. Cook in the microwave until it reaches a hard-ball stage (for this size batch my microwave takes about 3 1/2 minutes). Remove the bowl carefully–it will be hot–and stir in 1 tsp vanilla and 2 cups or so of nuts. Just walnuts alone work fine, but I like to add pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, whatever I have available. Beat by hand until the syrup sticks to the nuts, then pour out onto waxed paper and separate into clusters with two forks. If it turns out to be clumps instead of clusters, no big deal.

Some people make this with only cinnamon and only walnuts.  As long as you use the 3-to-1 ratio of sugar to evaporated milk and don’t let it burn, you almost can’t spoil this recipe,. (If you cook the syrup too long, the candy will set up faster and you’ll have to stir like mad to get all the nuts coated. If you don’t cook it long enough, you’ll stir and stir and still might get little puddles of candy when you pour it out. After the first time, this doesn’t happen often. And you know what? It’s still good.)

Let the droppers-in come!

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.