My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Butterscotch Haystacks, Ala My Great Grandmother

"Grandmother - A wonderful mother with lots of practice."
~Unknown
When I was a child, there were a few things you could count on at my grandmother's house for Christmas.  There was always ribbon candy and fudge, laughter, warmth, and haystacks.  My great-grandmother, Viola Hook (aka Nana) always made haystacks.  
The child is my grandmother,  the woman, my great-grandmother, Viola Hook.
Nana made haystacks the old fashioned way.  No peanut butter or marshmallows; just butterscotch, peanuts and chow mein noodles.  I grew up on them, so it's the only way I like them.  For us, they were always a part of the Christmas cookie tray, even though they are really more of a candy.  In all my years, I've never seen them anywhere else, although when googled, recipes and variations abounded, and for the first time that I've ever noticed, there was a recipe for them on the back of the bag of butterscotch morsels.  I've been making them for 30 years and never needed a recipe since they are so incredibly easy, but out of curiosity, I got out Nana's old file box of recipes and poked through it.
Apparently she never needed to write it down either, but there were some curiosities in there worth trying soon.  My husband never had them til he met me, but he LOVES them.  In fact, when we were first married, for years I would make a tin of them and give them to him for Christmas and he'd eat the whole thing.  They are funny looking little things, yet addictingly good!  Once the ingredients are stirred together, it is fun for kids to get involved and help shape them and drop them on the wax paper.  They're pretty fool-proof and are already a bit goofy-looking, so you can't go wrong!

I am the last American without a microwave, so I'll give you the old-school recipe (the way I make them), followed by a microwave method.

Nana Hook's Haystacks
makes 18-24 

One 11 ounce bag Nestle Butterscotch Morsels
One 8.5 ounce can Chow Mein Noodles (I use LaChoy brand). 
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts (I used the Planter's Sea Salt ones)

Stove-top method:
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Place a medium saucepan half filled with water on the stove on medium high.  Bring to a low simmer.  Turn down heat a little and place a heat-proof bowl on top of saucepan (or use a double-boiler).  Make sure the bowl is completely dry and that no water gets in it (or the candy will seize).  Pour morsels in the bowl.  Leave it uncovered.  When most of the morsels are shiny, stir just until melted.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in the chow mein noodles and peanuts.  Place small blobs of the mixture on the cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Allow to cool completely and place in cookie tins.  Store in a cool dry place, or the refrigerator.

Microwave method:
Microwave morsels in a large, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on medium-high (70%) power for 1 minute; stir.  If necessary, microwave at additional 10 second intervals, just until melted.  Stir in chow mein noodles and peanuts and toss until all ingredients are coated.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Cool completely and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

22 comments:

Tina said...

This is a unique recipe for haystacks. The haystacks I know are made of chocolate and coconut. I will need to try this version. Butterscotch is like the forgotten flavor, being overpowered by chocolate but I still find it quite delicious and always have the chips in my fridge. Thanks for sharing this treat from your past generations-I am sure they would be proud that you make these after all these years!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@Tina: You're so right about butterscotch. When I was a child, we had butterscotch pudding and ice cream and you rarely see it now. Folks are always pleasantly surprised at how good this confection is when they try it. Thanks for your kind comments...have a great week!

Amy said...

I am going to make these, for sure! The only question I have is...how are you not 300 pounds?!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@Amy: They're so easy, you'll love them! As for the weight thing...well, I walk and jog a few times a week...that helps, and I have the quirky habit of only eating sweets or dessert for breakfast. I enjoy it more then, because I'm actually hungry. I love sweets with coffee (and I can't drink coffee at night) and then you have all day to burn it off. Works for me! Because complete denial is NOT happening!

Kate Hannon said...

Sometimes the simplest treats are the most delicious, especially when there's a wonderful memory attached.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@Kate: So true!

~~louise~~ said...

The treasure of this post is Grandma's recipe box, Margaret. I often worry my grandchildren will not have Haystack memories because we live 2,000 miles apart. I may just send some their way.

And, yes, I do adore chocolate but my oh my "real" butterscotch is simply luscious.

Thank you so much for sharing this heartfelt post:)

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@louise: I think it's a great idea to send them some. They are so unique, they really stick out in memory! Thanks for the kind words, it's very encouraging!

~~louise~~ said...

That's so funny, Margaret. After reading this post I called my daughter who lives in Idaho and she remembered haystacks vividly. We both agreed, like you, that I should send them and start a new tradition from afar:) We had a memorable talk all because of your wonderful post. Thank you:)

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@Louise: You're welcome...I think that's really great! Enjoy your weekend!

Mary said...

I've never made these but they sound delicious and well-worth trying. You come from a line of beautiful women. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

mjskit said...

OMG! The pictures, the story, the recipe - it all takes me back! I remember these luscious snacks but had forgotten all about them until now. I can so taste the sweet and salt over the crunchy. I WILL be making these for the holidays and many times after that. Thanks for the memories!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@mjskit: You just made my day! I'm so glad to bring back happy memories for you. You're right about the sweet and salty thing. SO GOOD! And there is no substitute for those chow mein noodles...they are the secret! Nice to meet you here....thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great week.

delicioushappens.com said...

I love everything about this post. The family photograph is beautiful! I love old family photographs!! The food...I love love love butterscotch. What a fun recipe to make! I'll be making this recipe of yours as well!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@delicioushappens: Ah..you're the toffee pecan lady ;-). Thanks for coming over! So happy you liked the post. You must have a nostalgic streak, like me!

mjskit said...

Margaret - I hope you don't mind but I added this recipe to a "sweets" blog hop on Deelicious Sweets. You can check it out at http://www.deelicioussweets.com/2011/12/tis-season-blog-hop.html.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@mjskit: Don't mind at all...Thanks! Cool site!

ChefThomas said...

Eatable memories linger the longest. Just like memories of loved ones …. lovely post.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

You're so right. Thank you, Chef.

Carol said...

This is exactly how I have made my haystacks for years for my children. Now my grandchildren make them with me! Merry Christmas!

Brian Johnson said...

Yes, no peanut butter! Our family has always enjoyed these with just the butterscotch and chow mein noodles. No nuts or any other addition. The year I followed a recipe with peanut butter in it I was very disappointed having to put them in the refrigerator to harden. With just the morsels they set right on the counter.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

Yes! I agree completely. I'm making these tomorrow, actually!