The Vintage Christmas Recipe Every Grandmother Should Make With Her Grandchild At Least Once
Hint: You’ll need some sunny weather.
Christmas is no time to go rogue. No matter how adventurous we might be the rest of the year, when it comes to holiday foods, the buck stops at Memaw’s recipe box. Southerners want all the time-honored recipes from our family and community: Miss Billie’s peanut brittle, Nanna’s ambrosia, Aunt Vertie’s old-fashioned orange slice candy, Great Aunt Margaret’s fruitcake . . . We love rich fudge made from a recipe that has been printed on the cocoa can (or jars of Kraft Marshmallow Crème) FOREVER, plus sugar cookies, eggnog, and boiled custard.
Some of these recipes can be mastered easily enough, while others require time in the kitchen, under the watchful eye of the family matriarch. When we polled our Facebook Brain Trust to see which vintage recipe, above all others, we would need our grandmothers to teach us, one holiday sweet treat rose to the top: homemade divinity.
Any kitchen novice will approach an old-fashioned divinity recipe with fear and trembling. What if the egg whites don’t fluff? What if the syrup mixture scorches? What if the whole concoction turns a really odd and thoroughly un-Christmasy color? What if, what if, what if?
“Now don’t even try this on a cloudy day,” warns a seasoned Divinity Diva from Alabama. “Divinity does best on a bright, sunny day, but at the very least, it has to be dry outside. Egg whites will-not-do on a cloudy day. And you must cook the syrup mixture till it can spin a thread. You know what I mean by spin a thread?” (Of course. Sort of. Not really.)
More than anything else, that’s what fascinates us about watching our grandmothers in the kitchen—the way they confidently put generations of food knowledge to work. It’s those capable hands in biscuit dough, a gold band barely shining through all the flour. And the flour gets sifted through a 70-year-old apparatus that her mother gave her. It looks like an oversized pork-and-beans can with a handle attached. Simple tools, sturdy and well used. An apron in a floral print with ruffles at the shoulders. A dishpan that looks older than you are.
(Tip: Don’t ask your grandmother if you bake divinity. She will give you a forlorn look that says, “Where did your mother go wrong?” You don’t bake it. You cool it.)
For your first attempt at homemade divinity—especially if Memaw isn’t available for a consult—we recommend Mrs. Floyd’s Divinity. This recipe was shared with Southern Living readers by the wife of our former editor-in-chief, who ruled supreme over the staff but confessed that he looked on anxiously each month as Mrs. Floyd went through the latest issue of the magazine. She tasted many a white Christmas cake with us—and makes one mean batch of divinity. Memaw would approve.
WATCH: Mrs. Floyd's Divinity
Divinity is one of those great vintage candies that Southerners have loved for generations. This is one of our all-time favorite recipes for it.