Several foods seem to only make an appearance around our home during the holiday season—candy canes, egg nog, cranberry sauce, gingerbread. It’s unfortunate really, but perhaps it allows these items to remain a special treat each year. Peanut brittle is another of these seasonally appearing foods. It’s very rare that I find myself purchasing peanut brittle at any time of the year, really. It’s an older, more traditional candy—some might even call it “old fashioned.” But we still seem to find it making appearances fairly regularly during the holidays, mostly due to it being gifted at some point during the season. I’m perfectly fine with this—I’ve always liked the stuff enough to enjoy it from time to time.
Recently, I found myself in Arkadelphia. This is a relatively rare occurrence, indeed, as the only taste of Arkadelphia I’ve had in the past has been a quick glance at the surrounding town and its looming water tower (the one that reads “Arkadelphia: It’s a great place to call home!”) as I’m speeding by on I-30. And I’d only heard of one reason to go to Arkadelphia—Juanita’s Candy Kitchen.
So I determined that I would find this “Juanita’s” while in town. Luckily, everyone in Arkadelphia seems to know where this place is—I had to ask for directions twice to find it. But eventually, we rolled up to the large, factory-like candy store and perused the small gift shop which featured all Jaunita’s has to offer.
Ms. Juanita’s picture still hangs proudly on the candy shop’s wall. She began making brittle in 1974—producing the candy in a small building behind her home and traveling around the state to sell it out of her car. Juanita passed away in 2001, but her sons keep her business alive today.
Walking in, you’ll notice only a few options—peanut, pecan, and cashew brittle. These can be purchased by the bucket (1-1/2 or 3 lb) or in smaller 8 oz plastic bags. Samples of each nut variety sit in front of their own display.
The small handful of ingredients (which are printed right on the side of the bag) reveals nothing surprising about Juanita’s brittle. Sugar, corn syrup, nuts—not much more. But make no mistake, the flavor and texture of Juanita’s brittle really do make this stuff something special—maybe even the best traditional brittle I’ve ever eaten.
One particularly nice aspect of their brittle is its exceedingly thin nature. It’s quite crispy and crackles when bitten into. It’s buttery and sweet, sticky enough to cling to your teeth just a little before sliding down your throat. Of the three varieties, I enjoyed the pecan most. These nuts impart a rich, roasted, almost smoky flavor to the candy. But the peanut and cashew were no slouches either.
If you don’t feel like driving down to Arkadelphia to purchase these brittles yourself, you can phone in or mail in an order (details here) and have it shipped to where ever you’d like. No matter how you make this happen, if you’re a believer in brittle, I can’t recommend this candy enough.
Juanita’s Candy Kitchen is located at 47 Stephenwood Drive, Arkadelphia, AR (directions here)