Heavenly Hash

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Two doors east of the green stuccoed Mexican bar with the lighted Coors sign in the window stood my aunt’s corner house. Empty rabbit hutches edged a packed dirt back yard, soot stained the siding and porch screens sagged. Worn linoleum lined the floors and piled magazines covered tabletops. Two of my grandparents, somewhat down and out after they sold the coal mine up Piceance Creek, lived there as well. In spite of the dust, clutter and my fear of the neighborhood, they were my folks, and I had obligations.

I waited for moments to explore the pantry, a small room off the kitchen with its own door and a window at the back. There were shelves for canned goods and bowls, tubs for onions and potatoes, a swing-out bin for flour that held the contents of a 25-pound cotton sack and a built-in sifter. On the wooden work shelf above the flour and sugar bins there was almost always a tasty morsel left on a pie tin.

Grandpa roasted the holiday turkey with onion and sage dressing, steamed a plum duff big enough to fill a pillowcase for Christmas, and throughout December boiled up batches of caramel and heavenly hash. The hash was no quick mix of chocolate chips and marshmallows, but a slowly cooked cream candy filled with walnuts, dates and white raisins. Its flavor was Victorian-rich.

George’s Heavenly Hash

½ cup light corn syrup (5 ½ oz.)

½ cup heavy cream (4 fl. oz.)

1 ½ cups sugar (10 oz.)

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sliced sticky dates (3 oz.)

½ cup golden raisins (3 oz.)

½ cup chopped walnuts (2 oz.)

In a heavy saucepan swirl the syrup and cream to combine and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and pinch of salt. Stir with wooden spoon to dissolve sugar (wash sugar from spoon.) Cover and bring to a boil steaming any sugar from the sides of the saucepan. Do not stir.

Uncover and boil over moderate heat until the mixture reaches the firmish soft-ball stage, almost 240º. Use a sugar thermometer and/ or test a few drops of syrup in a cup of ice water. Do not be dismayed if the mixture turns light beige; this seems to happen with ultra pasturized heavy cream.

Cool 10-15 minutes and begin to stir with a wooden spoon. The cooked mass should thicken and turn opaque. If it becomes too hard to stir, scrape the candy out onto a lightly oiled marble or granite surface and knead with a dough scraper or palate knife. (If the candy remains shiny and seems to refuse to fall into the creamy fondant state, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and walk away from it for an hour.) When the sugar mass stiffens into a smooth fondant, blend in ½ teaspoon vanilla and knead in the dates, raisins and nuts. Divide in half, roll into 12-inch logs and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

Store in a cool place and serve in slices with strong coffee or tea.

Makes 1½ pounds.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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One Response to “Heavenly Hash”

  1. JoAnne Sobol Says:

    Hi Mary Jo. Made your Butternut Squash Soup for Thanksgiving and David called last night for the recipe, I gave him your cookbook but I think it is in Richmond, not St. Louis.
    Do you have a recipe for rice pudding you would be willing to share? Tonight I am making Alice Waters’ recipe for pot roast. Smells yummy. Earlier today I made your chicken stock recipe. Such fond memories we have of you, your cuisine and your delightful restaurant. It was ALWAYS special.
    Jennifer delivered our second grandchild on Dec. 1st in Maplewood, NJ. I spent 12 days with she and her family, cooking, doing laundry etc. etc. She has a Whole Foods nearby and couple of fine liquor stores for trying some new red wine. Fun time……..and one tired Grammy. How are your grandchildren? Say hi to Jim for me. Fondly, JoAnne Sobol (now of Fort Wayne, IN) Joseph Decuis is nearby!!! Hooray for us.

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