sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy

My grandmother, Alice, moved in with my parents close to two years ago now. She had recently been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it just made sense for her to move in with family while she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She had been living alone in a small town nearby, in the same little house she and my grandfather lived in before he died in 2004. She liked her independence – and still does – so moving in with her daughter and son-in-law was a big adjustment for her.

Over the months that passed, the move proved to be a good thing for all three of them. My dad and my grandmother seemed to bond in a way they never had before, actually learning to like – and actually love – each other. My mother adjusted to her mother’s quirks, or at least found ways to cope with them. And my grandmother got used to having her own space within theirs, relying on my parents for many things, but still asserting her independence in her trademark fashion.

Since the end of January, when my father had his first of several health crises, my grandmother’s presence in my parents’ home has become increasingly important to my mother. For a long time, Mom has considered herself my grandmother’s caregiver, and she very much is. But this year, the roles reversed in an unexpected and surprising way. My grandmother has become an emotional caregiver – a steady and reliable friend, a confidant, and often a happy distraction – for my mom. This has been a very hard year for Mom – for all of us, truthfully – but knowing that Grandmother is there for her is more comforting to me than I can put into words.

Over the past few months, my grandmother decided she would be a permanent resident in my mom’s home. Of course, we assumed this, but it needed to be her decision. When my mom and her two sisters and brother cleaned out Grandmother’s little house recently, I inherited a box filled with Grandmother’s old cookbooks and recipe collections.

So, basically, I inherited a box full of treasure.

This recipe for Potato Candy was one of the yellowed scraps of paper I found shoved into a recipe binder in that cardboard box. The recipe was scrawled in blue ink in my grandmother’s slanted cursive, with brown stains at the corners – really, just how you’d want an old family recipe to appear.

I altered the recipe just a tad, decreasing some of the amounts just enough to feel good about the finished product but not so much that it did not feel like the original. The mashed potato in the recipe is really just a binder for the butter and confectioners sugar, so you don’t have to worry about tasting potato in the finished product. With its sweet vanilla-flavored creaminess paired with a swirl of peanut butter in the center, the recipe marries sweet and salty together in an addictive manner.

I  made a batch for Thanksgiving, and I have been a hero in my kids’ eyes ever since.

Maybe just as much of a hero to them as my grandmother is to me, even.

Yield: plenty

Old-Fashioned Potato Candy

This old fashioned candy is incredibly easy to make - and quite addictive. Use leftover mashed potatoes to make your life easier. It's messy, but I recommend mixing the dough with your hands rather than a spoon. It's quicker, easier, and much more fun.

Ingredients:

1 cup mashed potatoes, room temperature or cold
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 pounds confectioners sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, divided

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together mashed potatoes, butter, and vanilla. Add confectioners sugar, one pound at a time, and stir together well. The dough will be very wet, but it will come together into a more firm dough after you incorporate the last pound of confectioners sugar. Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, divide it into two halves.

On a sheet of wax paper, and using your hands, flatten out one of the halves of dough into a rectangle. Cover the dough with a second sheet of wax paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is roughly 13-14 inches long and 10 inches wide. Lift the wax paper and dough carefully, place on a baking sheet, and chill for about 5-10 minutes only. Remove from refrigerator and spread 1/4 cup peanut butter evenly onto the dough. From the long side, carefully roll into a log and wrap well in wax paper. Repeat with other half of dough. Chill the logs for at least 2 hours before slicing. Once chilled, slice into 1/2-inch pieces and serve.

Make ahead: Store prepared potato candy, layered between sheets of wax paper, in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

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21 Responses to “sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy”

  1. LiztheChef — December 6, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Are you aware that when someone is reading your post(s) that a band shoots across, saying “recommended for you”? It really turns me off. Your blog is so popular that I thought others might share the feeling, which is why I bring it to your attention. Meaning the best, Liz

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 6th, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

      Try it now, Liz.

  2. SMITH BITES — December 6, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    such wonderful memories MJ – am thrilled you are now the keeper of the recipes!!

  3. Leigh — December 6, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    What a beautiful, touching post. I totally want to make some now.

  4. Macaroni Mama — December 6, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    A wonderful post! I never, ever . . . ever believed that my 88 year old mother would be MY Care-Giver!. Grandmother is so proud of you, Merry Jennifer

  5. katie — December 6, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    I’ve never heard of potato candy, but I have to say I’m intrigued! Your grandmother’s recipe is bringing me back. My grandmother had very similar cursive and very similar stained, worn pieces of paper with recipes on them. But most of all I’m blown away seeing the word “Oleo”! I haven’t heard that term used in soooo long! Another memory of my grandmother 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  6. Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 6, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    I love the hand written recipe and the connection to your grandmother… though, it does feel a little bitter sweet. You, your mother, and your grandmother have been so strong this past year! Sending you hugs!

  7. jenn s. — December 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    I have my late Great Aunt Jewel’s recipe for cream cheese poundcake and it is absolutely priceless. One glance at that stained, crumpled paper with the slanted cursive and I am transported back in time to her kitchen where I would help her roll out biscuits (eating dough until my belly was swollen and achy!) and mix up cake batter. She always let me lick the bowl. I make her cake frequently and think of her everytime the sweet, buttery smell of poundcake fills my home. I miss her, but I feel her with me when I cook.

  8. Paula — December 7, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    The potato candy looks delicious but the content of this entire post is so beautifully written. You have a gift with words and spinning them together to tell a story that draws your readers into, carefully savouring every word, wanting more and feeling a little disappointed when the post comes to an end, even though we have been fulfilled, inspired and uplifted.

  9. Kathryn — December 7, 2011 @ 3:54 am

    This was such a wonderful post, you describe the relationship between your parents and grandmother with such love and tenderness.

  10. Janis — December 7, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    I love this post. My grandma was my best friend. I have some of her recipes and they mean everything to me.

  11. Lucy — December 7, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    The stains make it the most prized of treasures – tried and true! Love the story behind this and I’ve always wanted to try this candy recipe. Wishing you the blessings of the holidays with your family!

  12. Mary Constant — December 7, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    What a unique candy! “Eat, drink and be Merry” Someone gave me some cocktail napkins that have “Eat, Drink , and…who’s Mary”

  13. Nicole — December 7, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    I have never heard of potato candy before! I’ll have to try this one soon. Something about using family recipes that are worn and splattered is one of my absolute favorite ways to create in the kitchen.

  14. Efthimia — December 8, 2011 @ 1:57 am

    The power of grandmothers, whether in a hug or on an old recipe card, is trully remarkable. I lost both mine a few years ago, and I still see them stapling the family together to this day, their legacy being their love.

    And their cooking skills as well. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of potato candy but it sounds delicious, not to mention easiest candy ever. I’m definetely trying this for the holidays. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope everything turns out well.

  15. That’s the best gift to receive. When my grandmother had to move out of her home I was the one who got all her old recipe books and handwritten notes and I am go grateful for that gift.

  16. Jessica @ How Sweet — December 8, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, heart-warming story. I have my grandmother’s recipes and have always eyed the one for potato candy but been too scared to try. Love that you did this.

  17. Marla — December 10, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Such a sweet story of true family bonding and support.
    I have never heard of potato candy, but it sounds wonderful!

  18. Michelle Kreifels — December 21, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Very sweet story. I inherited all of my grandmothers photo albums. I miss the days when you actually held a stack of photos in your hand. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe. I have never heard of potato candy!

  19. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — December 22, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    Loved this!! Felt like I got to know you a little better. I, too love the stained old recipes. Merry Christmas!

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