A Jarring Affair: Brandy & Brown Sugar Granola

By Olivia Jones

In my home, cans are coveted. Thick lipped, glass bodied and tin topped jars line our pantry’s shelves. We collect them year round, peeling off jelly labels, scraping away peanut butter and rinsing out old residues. Without the jars, the success of our day is futile.

Granola day comes once a year. The preparation is similar to that of an animal’s forage before the first snowfall. The kitchen counters are covered in varied seeds, aluminum tins, and wooden mixing spoons. With a batch being baked to last us the year, the day starts early.

On the front lines of our marathon is my father. He begins the process at morning. With years of experience in his back pocket, he has built a foundation for what goes into the oven and what comes out. When he first starts to sense the days getting shorter and a twinge in the temperature he surely comments: “It’s time to make granola!” Each year substitutions are made, things are added and one batch never comes out just the same as the other. But somehow, every year tastes better than the last. Ingredient by ingredient the aluminum tubs begin to fill.

To start, hearty oats make the basis for the blend. Nuts and seeds of all varieties are are sprinkled in to bolster the filling effects our granola offers. With toasted coconut flakes, brown sugar and handfuls of dried cherries, the mix begins to resemble the harvest of the recently forgotten fall. However, the most important aspects of the recipe are the ones that cannot be seen. Holding everything together is the sweet stickiness of honey, smooth canola oil and the crisp tastes of apple juice. It is finished off with the unexpected: a splash of brandy, and topped with pinch of salt. Tossed and ready, the batch makes its way to the oven. Once cooked, the granola is broiled for the final addition of a satisfying crunch, that with each bite releases a delicious blend of flavor, greeted by impressive handfuls and ravenous chomps.

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Photo by Daniella Byck

This process continues throughout the day. Batch after batch, tub after tub, heaps of granola enter and exit the oven, adding to the stash that will last us the year. Piles of CDs play on rotation and in the middle of the day a nap usually ensues. However, the granola keeps cooking; its sweet aroma filling each corner of our home, and by the end of the day the scents are bursting from the foundation.

When the final tubs are toasted and the heaps have cooled, the canning process begins. The collected jars are taken from their shelves and lined up in rows. Each jar is filled with this year’s granola, preserving more than just ingredients, but the memories of our yearly affair in the kitchen. Through the months, our supply will dwindle in anticipation for the next time we roar the oven to replenish our stock. Soon enough jars will start to collect again on the shelves of our pantry, we will gorge ourselves on a freezer full of granola, but we won’t tire of the savory and sweet crunch. When away at school, choosing the granola off the shelf brings me back to days spent in the kitchen, side-by-side with my dad, dogs at our feet, and Crosby, Stills & Nash on the stereo. With every handful and every bite, I think about the rewarding labors of our day that bring us together for a family communion even when we’re apart. For as far as we travel from the kitchen, there will always be a jar of granola tucked tightly in our belongings, reminding us to save the jar, and to always return for granola day.

Brandy & Brown Sugar Granola

Note: Amounts do not have to be precise and you can add or subtract depending on what you can find.

8-9 cups oats

3-6 cups wheat germ

5 cups of chopped or halved cashews

1 cup sesame seeds (or seed of your choice)

5 cups pecans, halved

3-4 cups whole or shaved almonds

5 cups shelled sunflower seeds

2-3 cups pepitas

2 cups oat flour

1-2 cups sunflower meal (or substitute with 1 cup of whole wheat flour)

1 pound of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of salt

1 to 2 pounds of dried cherries or cranberries

4 cups shaved (not flaked) coconut

1 cup apple juice

1 cup canola oil

1 ½ -2 cups honey

¼ cup of brandy

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Lightly toast the coconut on a baking sheet until just starting to turn light brown. Set aside for later. Increase oven temperature to 300.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another smaller bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture, combine until ingredients stick together.

Spread on baking sheets and roast for about 30 minutes, rotate pans once during baking. Sprinkle the coconut on top. With baking sheet in middle of oven, use the broiling function for no more that 2 to 3 minutes. Watch closely so the granola don’t burn.

Let cool and divide into jars.

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