I realize that when most people think of the holidays, they usually do not think of the official state nut of Ohio. Yes, that is right, nothing says Christmas to me like Buckeyes. My buckeyes, however, are a little tastier than the nut version. A sweet confection of peanut butter and chocolate, these creamy, yet crumby treats are a true delicacy.
Buckeyes are a tell tale sign for me that Christmas is just around the corner. Why my mother chose Christmas as a time to showcase these delicious little candies, I will never know, but her decision to devote some cold afternoons to making these sweet confections made them a holiday staple for our family. As a child, I would always look forward to “Buckeye” time each year. With a lackluster attitude towards cooking, my mother did not make many exciting or special dishes during the year. At Christmas, however, she pulled out all the stops with these candies. Not only were they special because of the time of year, they were special because mom was making them. Always willing to help in the kitchen (my love of cooking seemed to be born with me,) I would especially enjoy helping with the buckeyes. A very simple recipe, the only “difficulty” is rolling the “dough” into 1″ balls – this is where my mother was quick to enlist the help of her children. My brother, mother and I would line the dinning room table with wax paper and she would set a large bowl in the center. I would prop myself on my knees on a chair and dig in. While I think I was aware of the mundane task even at an early age, the anticipation of the first buckeye of the season was enough to keep me rolling!
After all the candies were formed, my mother would melt the chocolate and dip them. As I got older, this task also got passed to me, but in the early stages I would watch with wonder as the seemingly boring peanut butter balls transformed into shinny “Buckeyes.” After the chocolate set, my mother would pile all the candies into Christmas tins that she saved each year for this purpose. The buckeyes are best kept cool, so my mother would stash the tins in the basement and retrieve a couple each day.
Making buckeyes is probably one of the fondest food memories I have of my mother. I have no shortage of wonderful memories with my mom throughout out her life, but not many of them took place in our kitchen (again, just not her thing). Being a chef, I find those few culinary memories particularly special. You always hear these wonderful stories from chefs spending hours in the kitchen with their grandmother’s rolling fresh pasta. I never had that – but I did have buckeyes – and to me that is just as good.
These days, the buckeye production has fallen to me. Making two and three times the recipe at once, I stock up on these nostalgic treats early in the season. Not only are they a must at family gatherings, I give them out as holiday gifts to friends. Following in my mother’s footsteps, I canvas after-Christmas sales for cheep tins. I tuck them away until the weather turns cold again and then fill with buckeyes. Finished with a nice ribbon, these are great little gifts to have on hand. I usually keep a couple packages wrapped and ready to go for those last-minute gifts I have forgotten. They make perfect tokens for hostess gifts, teachers, mailmen, you name it!
I hope you enjoy these small delights. Along with their irresistible goodness, these Buckeyes come with memories of family, togetherness, and giving. I hope you may someday make the Ohio state nut a part of your Christmas tradition as well.