I love nuts of all kinds and they are very popular around the holidays, in almost every culture around the world. Nuts are very healthy and contain a lot of protein, especially for being packed in such a small package. I handful of nuts is a good pick-me-up at any time of day.
Cashews are tree nuts. Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. I love nuts of all kinds, but I have to say, out of all the different kinds of nuts available, cashews are probably some of my favorites, along with pecans.
The cashew was first discovered by Europeans in Brazil around 1558. Because of the irritating shells, they were thought to be inedible at first. Over time it was realized that it was the fruit skin and not the seeds that were irritating. Today, cashews are grown in Brazil, and all throughout South and Central America, as well as Africa, India and Vietnam. They can be grown in the US as well, although their growth is limited to the frost-free tropical regions of the United States, like Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. There is no commercial production in the US, though cashews are grown in botanical collections and some home landscapes. The “nut” itself grows out of the bottom of the cashew apple that grows on the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale), which is a tropical evergreen tree. Cashews are expensive nuts to purchase because they are labor intensive to produce. The cashew nut is roasted in the hull to make it possible to crack it. The cashew nut remains, but there is still a skin around it that has to be removed by hand.
I made some cashew brittle for us to munch on through the holidays. This particular recipe is so quick and easy, and only takes about 15 minutes to make. And it is all made in the microwave too. I made it nice and nutty., but if you like it with more brittle and less nuts, just cut down on the amount of nuts used.
Brittle is a popular type of candy that was created by accident. Brittle, is a type of confection, consisting of flat broken pieces of hard sugar candy that is loaded with nuts, similar to toffee. Originally, it was made in the Southern region of the United States and it was made with peanuts. The lady who created it was making taffy and accidentally used baking soda in the mix instead of using cream of tartar and she did not want to throw away all her ingredients, so she decided to continue cooking it to see how it would tun out. The baking soda made the candy into a hard, crunchy candy rather than the softer version known as taffy. And the rest is history. Today, you can use any type of nut you like, or you can mix and match them. Sometimes some of the best creations come from accidents. Believe me, I most definitely have first-hand experience with this notion too. 🙂
Microwave Cashew Brittle
4 cups cashews or nuts of your choice
1/2 cup Karo white syrup
1 cup sugar
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
1-2 TBSP butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Mix the nuts, sugar, salt and Karo syrup together and combine well. Put them in the microwave in a microwaveable dish and cook at a high power for 2 minutes.
Remove the nuts and mix everything together again, stirring well. Place the container back into the microwave and cook at high again for 6 minutes. The container is going to be very hot, so be careful.
Remove the nuts and add the butter and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and microwave at high once more, for an additional 2 minutes.
Spread parchment paper over a baking sheet.
Remove the nut mixture and quickly stir the baking soda into the mixture. Then quickly spread it over the parchment paper, in an even layer, covering as much of the pan as possible. This sets quickly, so there is no time to waste, or you will have a big lump of sugary, caramelized nuts which will be difficult to break apart.
Let the mixture cool completely, then with your hands, just break it apart into pieces and enjoy. This is so rich and so good, but it is very hard to stop at just one piece. It is a perfect treat to serve at parties any time of year.
Stay well and stay safe Everyone. ‘Til next time.