Tuesday
Dec162008

Snow White Divinity

Mrs. G. spent each Christmas of her childhood at her grandparents' house in Memphis, Tennessee. She would usually arrive on December 20th, and she would spend the week prior to the holiday helping her grandmother bake cookies, decorate the house and, being the sole grandchild, getting pretty much everything she wanted. If there was a beater or bowl to be licked clean, Mrs. G. was the licker. There was no competition. The love was all hers. It was first rate.

Mrs. G's grandmother loved Christmas. Let's just say it was her Secret Boyfriend. She spent months sewing felt snowmen and sparkly sequins onto stockings, crocheting red and green toilet paper roll covers and saving her sheets and sheets of green stamps to trade in for a porcelain sheep, camel or surplus Baby Jesus to add to her colossal Nativity Scene.

In 1973, flocked Christmas trees were all the rage. Despite Mrs. G's Grandfather's and Uncle Hugh's urging, no pleading, that she just go and buy one of these trees off the lot, Mrs. G's grandmother insisted that she could flock her own for half the price. So she filled her Electrolux vacuum cleaner canister with white asbestos chemical snow and switched the vacuum hose around so that rather than sucking in, it blew out. She flocked her tree, for sure, but in her spirited holiday-induced hysteria and her inability to limit the vacuum's lawless spray, she also flocked most of the den. By the time she was finished, it looked like there had been some sort of radioactive fallout of miniature marshmallows and synthetic dandruff. The whole house smelled strangely of Tupperware. It was sensational.
But the highlight of each and every Christmas was Mrs. G's Grandmother's snow white divinity candy. This meringue-like sweet has fallen out of popularity in the candy world, but Mrs. G. lived and breathed each December to stuff piece after fluffy piece of divinity into her mouth without stopping. It was that heavenly. It was that good. Perhaps the production of preparing it inspired the candy's goodness. Making it was a tricky business. It had to be made on the perfect day-dry with just a tinge of sunshine. Rain or humidity could prevent it from setting, rendering it grainy and mushy. Mrs' G's grandmother allowed no one in the kitchen on Divinity Day. Normally a kind and loving woman, she would thump your skull or jerk your earlobe if you bugged her ass to let you help. This was science, and she wasn't having it. When the color and consistency was just right, she would drop delicate spoonfuls onto sheets of waxed paper. Before placing half a pecan on each sweet tiny mound, she would look at Mrs. G. and say, cross your fingers, Sugar Bear, let's hope it turns out good. It always did.
Snow White Divinity
4 cups sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
3/4 cup cold water
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans, you can include pecans in the candy or on top as garnish
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir only until sugar has dissolved. Do not stir after this point. Cook syrup mixture until it reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer, bringing it to a hard ball stage.
While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Once the sugar mixture reaches 250 degrees F, carefully pour a slow steady stream of syrup into the stiffly beaten egg whites, beating constantly at high speed. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until mixture holds its shape, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in pecans.
Using 2 spoons, drop the divinity onto waxed paper, using 1 spoon to push the candy off the other. This may take a little practice because the technique is to twirl the pushing spoon, making the candy look like the top of a soft serve ice cream. If the candy becomes too stiff, add a few drops of hot water. You will need to work fast when making this type of candy. After you spoon the cooked sugar and nuts onto the waxed paper, you're done. Cool the candies on racks completely. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Reader Comments (91)

Your grandma sounds great - I love the flocking story! My grandma was a terrible cook, but I loved her big silver tinsel tree, and her propensity for vacuuming the house in a bathrobe and stilettos with a cigarette in one hand makes up for any culinary shortcomings for me.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBadness Jones

I haven't had a piece of divinity since I don't know when. Probably not since MY Grandmother made it and that's been a heck of a long time ago.

Grandkids should all have days of being the only one and getting everything they want in my opinion.

Darla

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersee you there!

Oh...Mrs. G...divinity!!! My grandmother (from Texas!) used to make that and peanut brittle every year. My Grandpa and I would wait...and wait...until we could steal bites! The memories of our grandparents are so precious!! (the flocking story is hee-lair-ee-us!!) My grandmother taught me to play "blackjack" at a very young age, 'cept she said we "were doing math"!! Gotta love that!!

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdkuroiwa

I married into flocking.. my husband's family flocked their trees in Puyallup, WA.. he introduced me to flocking Christmas trees early in our marriage.. we had to borrow an Electrolux from some neighbors.. we did a flocked tree for a couple of years.. My Mother made the most beautiful divinity it was perfect.. mine can tend to look like white, sweet puddles.. dry, clear weather around Christmas would prompt my Mom to say this is a good day to make divinity.. thanks for the White Christmas post..

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKaren at Junking in Georgia

Divinity must be a southern thing - never heard of it. I can't afford to bake anything that doesn't have a large margin for error.

My neighbors (growing up) flocked, but she always made him do it in the garage. Now I know why.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

What a wonderful story. I especially liked "Cross yourself Sugar Bear."

My great-grandmother Alice, "Granny" as she was known, made Divinity each Christmas as well. She lived in the dry Central Valley of California, where the weather was much more Divinity friendly. I would love to try making it myself someday, but after they lost my last candy thermometer in a cross country move, I've never bothered to replace it....along with it was lost the Christmas Candy making tradition. I guess I should quit being so darned lazy and get another one huh?

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMary Alice

"Sugar bear" - I love that. As always, a lovely post. I got tickled at the flocking of the den.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKeetha

I've only had divinity from Stuckey's stops along the interstate. Theirs is so not-fresh that it became a family joke. In my family we only baked sugar, never boiled it. Probably safer for us, although I'm sure yours is wonderful. (when do you ever get a day dry enough to make it in the winter?)

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkabbage

Your Grandma sounds like the perfect grandma. The flocking cracked me up. The blender photo made me nostalgic. Thanks for this lovely trip down Derfwad Memory Lane.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Merry Christmas, SB...thanks for sharing that lovely story about you and your grandmother with us!

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Aren't grandma's the absolute BEST? I think it's perfect that you had a flocked white Christmas inside the den one year.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterIrish Goddess

Oh, I remember divinity! Your grandmother sounds wonderful too.

Such a beautful Christmas memory...

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I think I would like a white den!

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterProfessor J

My grandma always made divinity, and I used to eat it until my teeth hurt.

Loved the DIY flocking. I'm thinking of flocking the children for Christmas.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

This is my Grandma's favorite too. My Mom would love to surprise her with some, this week, but the weather isn't cooperating.

I guess peanut brittle will have to do.

(I sorta forgot about those flocked trees. Yikes.)

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Milton

If you think divinity has gone out of fashion you should come stay with me in Mississippi for Christmas. Every person of the right age makes divinity here. I close my eyes and see divinity. I feel sick just thinking about it. Yet, each and every time divinity is presented my hand goes out of its own accord and I pluck a tiny piece of heaven off the platter and pop it in my mouth. For weeks the talk is all about who makes the best divinity.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWisteria

In a family with many aunts and uncles, only one made divinity. We knew she was magic.

As far as flocking your own Christmas tree, perhaps I share a few DIY tendencies with your grandmother. Luckily, being lazy has saved me a lot of clean-up.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCamellia

Awww, this brought back memories of times spent with my own grandmum ... decorating the tree, frosting cookies, etc.

Thank goodness for memories!

http://www.jodianderson.com" REL="nofollow">jodianderson.com

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterso NOT cool

As always, you have told a story with both humor and wonderful memories and I feel as though I have been given a lovely gift. Thank you.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer (Jen on the Edge)

Thank you 3 times!

Thank you for the divinity recipe -I'm actually going to give this a try, much to the chagrin of your grandmother, I'm sure.

Thank you for the great post about your son. I laughed hard over the bangs and the twin bed couch.....we had the same thing in our first house!!

And finally, a GREAT BIG THANK YOU for the Homeschoolers for Huckabee post. Give me a freakin' break already. Everytime I go to a homeschooling conference this issue pisses me off, so thank you for addressing it and letting people know they need to come out of the dark ages already! There are incredibly intelligent people out there choosing the keep their kids at home and religion has nothing to do with it. There, now I'll step off the soap box.

Have a great Christmas.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

OMG--our 89-year-old neighbor, Mary, stopped by last evening with a tray of fudge, coconut balls, and DIVINITY. My husband had never heard of it--poor dear. I think he ate it all.

Thanks for a lovely memory post. It brought back some of my own!

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterClaire B.

Neither of my grandmothers were culinarily inclined, so no homemade Divinity for me. But now that you mention it, I may have to brave the line at See's Candies to buy a pound or two! :)

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

Definitely a white theme going on there. My grandmother was similarly disposed when it came to making brandy snaps and then rolling them on a wood spoon handle to make them into rolls - heaven forbid that anyone should mess up the science of that event.
Best wishes

This is my calling card or linkhttp://whittereronautism.com/" REL="nofollow">"Whittereronautism"which takes you straight to my new blog.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMaddy

This looks dangerous, like I should only have it at your house and none in my own for fear of extra snarfing. Love the grandma story.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNora Bee

Never heard of flocking. Sounds dangerous. :)

Ah, divinities. Truly divine.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAuthorMomWithDogs

Divinity, also the same stuff on the top of hi-hat cupcakes, which I make when I am actually baking and not fake-baking and passing it off as my own, is indeed a tricky business and quite a science. When we attempt such things it requires a convergence of four generations in one kitchen, two thermometers and a cranky granny, so that pretty much is the universal recipe, you've nailed it.

I was going to attempt a tree-flocking this year. I bought ten bags of that fake snow stuff at the dollar store but with all of these ailments I didn't get around to it. I never even thought of using a household appliance in my flocking, so your Dear Grandma has trumped me in the Very Saucy Christmas department. She sounds badass.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSaucy

Divinity was always the first to go at the Christmas church supper when I was a kid. Thanks for reminding me. I've always been afraid to make it.

This is my first visit to your blog, but I will be back.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMidwestern Mother

Oh, I absolutely love, love, love homemade divinity! I grew up without any Grandmothers, but my sister-in-law of all but 8 months of my life, lovingly shared her mother with me and she was the kind of Grandma I have worked hard to become. She made the best divinity I have ever had the pleasure of eating. She too would only make it if the conditions were perfect and it always turned out fluffy and yummy and irresistible! My hubby makes awesome caramels, but we very rarely attempt divinity because our winters tend to be wet here in the Northwest. I usually give in and pay a small fortune for one tiny container and it's always a disappointment. I'm drooling all over the keyboard now.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKalurah's Mom

I need some snow white divinity. Yum.

And you know, people pay a lot of money for all white furnishings today...I say she was ahead of her time!

Heidi

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Adventure

Mrs. G: You complete me!

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAaryn

I have a Mamaw too. She made the best fudge. It had marshmallows in it.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Ohhhh, such a wonderful post. Thank you so much. My grandmother was more of a savory cook, torta and stuffed peppers, and pesto. My mom just made my baby the real garlicky pesto deal for his 1st birthday and he loved it. This cooking/food nurturing is powerful stuff. LOVE the nickname Sugar Bear. My grandma used to call me Love Bug.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMamaBird

Awww I spelled Derfwad wrong! Whatsa matter with me?
Merry Christmas Mrs. G...I hope you get some homemade divinity :)

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterShabbyInTheCity

Such sweet and funny memories! I, too, love divinity so thanks for the recipe! Flocked trees were the rage, but we bought ours pre-flocked. The vacuum was for cleaning the flocking off the floor later.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I so very very heart grandma stories. This one is a true delight, Mrs. G.

Considering I grew up on a very rainy island in the Puget Sound, I probably am having a false memory of divinity with my grandma...But I can taste it! Maybe we had a good dry winter one year.

I do know, however, we never flocked trees. I do like saying "flocked" though...

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie

omg flocking the den. THAT's funny. i picture one of those ginormous vacuum cleaners from way back when, too...

i'm not a fan of divinity. egg whites freak me out for some reason.

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjess

I totally want to flock my roof.

Angie
(www.AllAdither.com)

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAll Adither

Ummmm sounds good. Sounds like you had a great Grandma.

-Stu

December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBad

Your grandma rules! We had a flocked tree once or twice in my youth. I look at them with great memories attached. I don't WANT one. But I admire them.

December 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTootsie Farklepants

Mmm I've never heard of Divinity Candy. Sounds fabulous. Not even sure where I'd get corn syrup in Oz. Is not an oz thing.

December 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterM

Oh...I love childhood stories. And this was great. Any chance you have the flocking with the vacuum recipe? What a gift to get all that time with your grandparents... Forever memories.

December 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJCK

Oh gosh! I love Divinity. Mom always made it for dad, growing up.
Have you ever attempted dipping it in dark chocolate?
Guess who HAS.
And YES, it was freaking DIVINE! :)

December 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkalurah

What wonderful memories to share. Thanks.

December 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWenderina

Oh Divinity!! My Grandma made that too!! Her's was always pink.
And flocked trees! That story was too funny!!

You are awesome Mrs. G! Just awesome!

December 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBunny Bunster

You are Nurse Nightingale this year instead of Mrs. G. hope everyone recovers well enough to enjoy Christmas. Next year you should all go to some island instead of the hospital. Divinity is a special memory for me also. My Mom made perfectly beautiful divinity and like you I could not eat enough. I do wonder how it goes with gin, however. ?

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren at Junking in Georgia

I haven't had divinity in years. Ah, the memories. I used to make rum balls with my grandmother and each year as she got older the rum balls were more potent. Let's just say when I was in college, I spent the night at her house because I couldn't drive home. I know you like gin, but maybe I should whip up some rum balls for you in the spririt of Christmas and to get you through healing your family. ;-)

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Aucoin

Mmmmmmm

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwildthymeoriginals

Wonderful post! I think I may just find my Lost Christmas Spirit now... Happy Healing to Mr. and Miss G!

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter~annie

Give me rum balls any old day... divinity on the other hand just looks like big piles of bird poopie.

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blue Ridge Gal

I don't recall any flocking going on in my past,but my Grandma made divinity, too. It was heavenly! She probably would have been a DIY-flocker, too.

Sending good get-well mojo to Mr.G and L'il Miss G. And later, I drink some Bombay Sapphire and think of you!

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKelley

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