Making my Grandma Young’s Divinity

 

Here we were, the grandkids at the time–my brother Mark, me (on Grandma’s lap), Peggy, Steve, Jeff, Martha, Mike, Tom, and Bill. There were a few more to follow.

My Grandma Young was so good to her grandkids, ornery critters all (well, not me, *cough*). To wit: she made lavish amounts of cookies and candies at Christmas time, and we had nearly free access to it when we visited, as long as we didn’t stuff ourselves right before meals.

Grandma had her own language that she would use when the occasion arose to scold us: if we “pieced” (snacked) right before meals, she would get “cross” (grumpy).

At one time or another, amazingly (her little farm house was always a noisy, busy place, with lots of grandkids and aunties and uncles, farmyard dogs and cats bustling about, at least it seemed to me) Grandma picked up on the fact that I loved her homemade divinity. She started doing something that made me feel very special indeed, though I was just one of a very big group of grandies. Every time she made a batch, she would tuck away a few pieces–just for me–in a little bag, in a specific corner of the ‘fridge. When we visited–if there was divinity hidden away–she’d say a quiet word to me, and when nobody was about, I’d dig into that drawer and find it.

If the tiny farmhouse near Beatrice, Nebraska, where my grandparents lived, was still there, I could walk directly into the kitchen, pull open the ‘fridge door, and show you exactly where that divinity was always hidden.

Except that I wouldn’t. Sorry. 😉 Much as I love ya, dear gentle reader, I loved that divinity maybe . . . just . . a smidge more.

(Now, cousins, if any of you had the very same experience with Grandma, I don’t wanna hear it!) 😉

Grandma was young–in her early sixties–when she fell on the ice one winter and had to go to the hospital to get patched up. At least, she seemed young to me now, as I inch toward (inexorably and anon!) that age, myself. She had to spend a couple days in the hospital, and the day came that she was ready to come home. It was just after Christmastime. Mom, Dad, my siblings and Grandpa all took off in the car to fetch her. I stayed behind at the farmhouse. I’m not even sure why, but I suspect that there just wasn’t room for me in the car.

Plus, I was old enough (only just!) to stay there myself for an hour or two.

I was so excited and happy for the day to proceed as planned. I couldn’t wait to see my Grandma again. She was patched up; she was coming home; everything would be back to normal again. Like many homes at the time, my grandparents’ little place wasn’t quite right without the woman of the house there.

She was the heart, not only of their home, but of our entire extended family.

This is my beloved Grandma Young. I love that dress–her “Sunday dress,” surely–and coordinating apron she is wearing.

What happened next is too sad to recount here in detail, but she died suddenly, and instead of a celebration, the next few weeks and months were incredibly sad and empty.

Arriving at the hospital, my folks and Grandpa were expecting to pick up Grandma and bring her home. Instead they were told gently that she had “suddenly taken a bad turn.” Of course discovering that she had died unexpectedly must have driven all other thoughts from their minds. In shock, they forgot all about me, I guess, and I puttered around the farmhouse by myself for hours, wondering what the delay was.

Finally a kind neighbor, Mr. Barnard, showed up knocking at the back door.

The solemn, kind-faced farmer told me as gently as he could that my grandma was not coming home from the hospital after all, that she was dead! I can still see him standing there in his overalls, his cap in his hands, his face drawn and sad. My dad had called him, I guess, to ask him to fetch me and take me to his farm for the rest of the day, so I wouldn’t be alone.

Dad hadn’t reckoned on my stubbornly refusing to go, however. I was not about to go with a stranger to a house that I didn’t know, especially cast into the throes of shock and grief as I was.

And so--as shy and quiet as I was–I held my ground and refused to budge from my Grandma’s house. My throat was aching from wanting to cry, as I stood and stared at my Grandpa’s old friend. I wouldn’t move. I needed privacy to grieve. To come to grips with this fact: that I’d never see my Grandma again, at least not on this earth.

The quiet man finally allowed me to refuse–really, what else could he do?–and he turned and lumbered back down the walk to his pick-up truck. I grieved by myself for several hours, until the sun set and I went about the house, turning on as many lights as possible. At some point during that wretched day, I went to the ‘fridge and opened the drawer.

There it was, a small bag with 4 or 5 pieces of divinity that Grandma had tucked away for me.

My Grandma not only made divinity, but during every Christmas season, she would made enough pfefferneuse to fill a pillowcase, peanut brittle, fudge (the old-fashioned kind), caramels, date roll, endless loaves of sourdough bread, snickerdoodles, other cookies, and all without the benefit of a big mixer.

Grandma’s influence in my life was huge, and was probably the primary reason I started making candies around Christmas time myself, when I was about little Mack’s age. I taught myself how to make caramels, chocolate-covered cherries, the old-fashioned fudge and many others, but divinity (for obvious reasons) will always be my favorite. It took me awhile to figure out a recipe that tasted like Grandma’s, but this one is as close as I could get.

A word to the wise: homemade candies can be fussy to make, but if you follow the recipe closely, you can be successful at them. Also, an accurate candy thermometer and a heap of patience are both musts. 🙂 And either some very strong arms, or a good heavy stand mixer!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Grandma Young's Divinity
Author: 
Recipe type: homemade candies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
There's nothing like a piece of homemade divinity, and it's not even difficult to make, as long as you follow the recipe closely. Try it! You will be hooked!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup (freshly opened jar is best)
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. powdered sugar
  • ½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans
Instructions
  1. Mix together in saucepan: sugar, corn syrup, water and salt.
  2. Heat slowly, stirring, to soft ball stage (242 degrees).
  3. Meanwhile, beat egg whites until very stiff.
  4. Gradually pour ⅓ of the syrup in a thin stream over beaten egg whites, beating constantly.
  5. Continue to cook remaining syrup to hard ball stage (265 degrees).
  6. Beat this syrup gradually into egg white mixture, and beat until the mixture will hold its shape on a spoon.
  7. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar (even this tiny amount of powdered sugar makes a real improvement in the texture of the candy).
  8. Stir in chopped nuts quickly, and use two spoons to drop onto a sheet of waxed paper. Do it quickly! The candy will get firmer and firmer.
  9. Store in a covered tin.

Try your hand at candy-making! Maybe you’ll become hooked, too. I believe it has become a bit of a lost art, in our day of being able to buy anything we want, with a few clicks of a computer keyboard, but trust me–homemade divinity eclipses the store-bought kind in every possible way.

Thanks for popping in, gentle reader.

*hugs*

 

 

18 thoughts on “Making my Grandma Young’s Divinity

  1. Heather D.

    What a lovely and sad story. And what a lovely person your grandmother must have been. Reminds me of my own generous grandmother and all her acts of kindness.

    I thought of you today as I took some old socks of microwaved corn out to my kitties. They send you a bundle of purring thanks for the idea. Kind of links to this story, your grandmother’s thoughtfulness, your thoughtfulness, how the inspiration of lovely kindness carries on . . .

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You are so nice, Heather. I, in fact, had forgotten about those corn-filled socks, but I’m certainly going to make some up really quick for our kitties outside. We are have a real cold snap here in Nebraska. Thank you for your sweet comment.

  2. Patricia Imig

    What a very hard day that was for you; I am SO glad there was some divinity in the fridge for you! This was such a beautiful, heartfelt read, Amy. I really enjoyed it. And it made me think of my grandmother, who also made divinity and, my favorite, date roll (Was your grandmother’s date roll as super rich and sweet as it could possibly be? I need to make it sometime soon; it has been decades since I have tasted one.)

  3. Joyce Rivera

    First, I’m so happy to see a post again! Hope this means the problems with your (Go)Daddy have been resolved.

    Second, what a sweet, sweet story. I withheld the tears. I probably would have stashed at least one of the pieces of divinity and tried to keep it forever. I’m sure you’ve inherited some of Grandma Young’s traits and your grandies love you as much as you loved her.

  4. Diane Decker

    I can’t even see to type, really, but have to tell you what this post meant to me. I will message you. It’s too personal for a public post.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    Ah, I can remember when people used to “get Cross” and upset. It seems today that they skip that part and go directly to anger.
    For my grandma (fathers side) it was home made potato bread, canned peaches in brandy and cloves, and canned string beans with bacon. All favorites to this day. I still make them all now and then..
    I think we all miss the “house that Grandma built” it had a special feel about it. Don’t worry about aging, I did notice that your house had some of that same feeling. It comes down to “everybody is special” including the grandchildren. It’s easy to notice that you drool over your grandchildren, Welcome back, we have missed your shared moments of life.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      THank you, Chef. I AM crazy about my grandies. You picked up on that, eh? 😉

      Your grandma’s special dishes sound wonderful. Canned peaches in brandy and cloves, yumm!

  6. Emily

    I am so glad to see your post this morning. I have missed you. Your memories and picture of your grandmother are wonderful! I had one just like yours. She was special to all of us, too. Everyday I think of her. Her life influenced mine in a lot of things I like to do today. I can see yours did the same.
    Thank you for sharing your memories and your grandmothers Divinity recipe, Amy. I will add it to my box. I am sure it is similar to my grandmother’s recipe. Even though our grandmother’s were not related, they shared the same purposes in their lives. Family was everything!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Yep, Emily, that was my grandma in a nutshell. I’m glad to hear about yours being much the same. What a blessing.

  7. Connie Stahl

    Bless your heart! What a beautiful story! What a strong little girl you were to hold so steadfast. Im sure the neighbor had a story to tell when he returned without you! Im glad to be hearing from you again.

  8. Marcy

    Glad you are back! And that you shared this story. What a treasured memory you have. One of my grandmas made candied orange and grapefruit peel. I think the grapefruit peel was my favorite. Every so often when I get a bunch of grapefruits or oranges I will make some and it takes me back to when I was little.
    Your story also shows what a big impact a tiny gesture of love makes.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      So true, Marcy. It made such an impression that I remember it still, several decades (cough) later. I make candied citrus peel, too, but I have to be careful: I love it so much that i can nearly make myself sick on it! I have no self control where that stuff is concerned!

  9. cookinmom

    You know how to express yourself soo well!

    My memories was playing cards with my grandmother for hours, slapping the winning card down and her making doughnuts and doughnut holes rolled in cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar. Oh, if I could have turned back the clock. It was such a special time together because I got to be with her alone without my three brothers!

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