Scottish Cookery, Harry Potter, and Peppermint Humbugs

I have been super busy with a lot of unfun crap for the past month and a half that is really cutting into my reading time. I’ve been bummed that I haven’t had time to read or cook or sew or craft or enjoy the summer weather (as much as one can enjoy 99 degree temperatures…) or basically do anything that I used to do for pleasure. Thus, I attempted to get my weekend off to a good start by taking an early morning trip to the library to just wander around. I do this occasionally and I have stumbled upon some fantastic books this way, plus, I just think it’s fun (huge nerd, I know). On this particular trip, I discovered the cookbooks. I came home with 3, including The Home Book of Scottish Cookery by Aileen King and Fiona Dunnett. It’s from 1967 and says funny things like “The fashion for afternoon tea, introduced during the fifteenth century, spurred on the Scottish housewife to develop her skills with the girdle and oven,”  but I was intrigued by some of the recipes, and of course, one can never tire of Scottish references ;)  

Now, fast forward to Saturday night when I was exhausted from a day of intensely hot yard work (that included being simultaneously swarmed by mosquitos and chased by a cicada killer wasp while mowing the yard…) and I just wanted a light, quick, fun book to read before bed. I went through the old TBR stack and found nothing to satisfy me, so hubs suggested Harry Potter. (On the long drive home from Jessica’s wedding, we had a conversation about how I haven’t read any of his favorite novels, even though he’s read many of mine [excluding Outlander, however, which he still vows never to touch]. His list includes The Lord of the Rings series, The Game of Thrones series, and the Harry Potter series.)

I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There was a particular description in Chapter 5 that caught my eye…“Hagrid’s coat seemed to be made of nothing but pockets – bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, peppermint humbugs, teabags… ” PEPPERMINT HUMBUGS! I had just seen that recipe in The Home Book of Scottish Cookery! I took this as a sign that I had to make Humbugs that weekend.

My extreme enthusiasm did not last, however. Silly me thought that I could whip these puppies up in the hour I had between supper and “True Blood.” Long story short, they took FOREVER to make and they ultimately made me miss more than half of TB. (This is actually a really big deal because Eric has amnesia…I’ve been waiting over 3 long years to see amnesiac Eric…plus, he was drunk and naked in the lake…). They didn’t turn out as pretty as I would’ve liked, since I was running back and forth between rooms to catch as many Eric parts as I could, but they are pretty tasty and could be a very cool treat for a Harry Potter fan if you have the time to make them properly. Since we’re in the midst of HP mania again, I figured someone out there would enjoy the recipe…

Humbugs

  • 1 lb. demerara sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 tbsp) butter
  • 1 dsp. syrup (dsp. stands for “dessert spoon” and is equivalent to 2 tsp.)
  • 1 dsp. treacle
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 pint water (16 oz.)
  • 3 drops oil of peppermint

Put the water and sugar into a pan and dissolve slowly. Add the cream of tartar, syrup, and treacle and the butter in wafer-like slices. Stir till boiling and remove spoon. Brush down sides if necessary. Boil to the crack stage (i.e. 290 degrees). Remove from heat and allow bubbles to subside and a thin skin to form. Oil a marble slab or strong enamel tray thoroughly and pour the mixture onto it. Add oil of peppermint. Oil the hands well and when cool enough to handle, pull the toffee until smooth and light in color and beginning to stiffen. Pull to a long strip and cut in 1/2 inch pieces with oiled scissors. Store in jar with tight-fitting lid.

It takes a surprisingly long time for it to come up to 290 degrees.

Terrible picture, but rather tasty little treats :)