If you go to New York City you will find street vendors that sell candied nuts in little paper bags.
Around the holidays you may also have a friend who makes the same kind of candied nuts and gives them as gifts.
We make candied walnuts here in the Brain household as part of our ongoing campaign to gain weight (and because we have heard that walnuts help with cholesterol). The recipe we use is done from memory but probably originally came from someplace like the Joy of Cooking.
Get out a frying pan and put in it one cup of sugar and a third of a cup of water. Heat and mix so that it starts gently boiling, which only takes a minute or two.
Add two cups of walnuts. If you want, add a pinch of salt as well (we usually don’t).
On medium heat, stir the nuts for about 5 minutes. All the water will evaporate out, and the sugar will magically reappear as big white granules on the nuts and in the pan.
Now if you want, stop here. You have nice, sugar-coated nuts that taste great. Pour the batch into a bowl and eat.
But if you want to go all the way and create what the street vendors create, leave them on the heat and keep stirring. After several minutes, the dry sugar granules will melt and carmelize to an amber colored liquid. You have to be really careful here with the heat – you want the melting, but you do not want any smoking or burning. Keep stirring until all the surgar has melted and covered the nuts with a deep amber glaze. Then take them off the heat and spread them apart on a cookie sheet so they do not stick together like peanut brittle.
The risk is that the glazing step burns the sugar and ruins the batch. That is why we often stop at sugared nuts, without doing the second step. But the candied nuts are better.
Here are two other ways to create candied nuts – one that fries sweet nuts, and the other that does it in the oven: