One of my first posts on this blog was my lament that Brachs Candy Company had stopped making its French Burnt Peanuts candy. Since writing that piece nearly three years ago, it has become my all-time leader in page views. To the point that if you Google “Brachs French Burnt Peanuts” my post comes up as number five on the page, bested only by sites that actually sell their own brands of the things. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you try it yourselves.
So, day in and day out my little essay about life without my favorite candy is read by people all around the world. But you know what is better than reading about French Burnt Peanuts? Actually eating them. Which I have been doing.
One of the many readers of the original FBP piece submitted a comment, letting me know that his company sells them and that I would not be disappointed if I were to try some. Although this comment ran afoul of my comment policy (I am fine with a discussion, not so much with running commercials for folks) I did order some of their candy.
I have also been on the lookout and have found a handful of other local sources where french burnt peanuts (in the generic sense) are on offer. Not Brachs French Burnt Peanuts, mind you – that company has still not seen the error of its ways and my old favorite remains out of production.
Anyhoo, the thought occurred to me that I ought to sample the various brands I have been able to get my hands on so as to let you good people know the current state of french burnt peanut-dom. Think of it as a public service – I will do anything for my valued readers. Really, my taste tests have been all about you.
First off, I will state that I have made no effort to make this test the ultimate, conclusive, complete, scientific collection of all french burnt peanuts that might be available anywhere. No, I have tried one single online source and some others which I have stumbled across in general area of my Indianapolis home. I also ran this taste test over a series of successive evenings and took good notes after extensive (complete, even) samples of each. So here is what I know.
My criteria were appearance, crunch and flavor. On appearance I was looking for an appetizing deep red color, decent sized pieces and an appropriately nubby surface. Crunch, well this is pretty self explanatory. These things are supposed to crunch when you chew them, not softly and quietly smoosh down between your chompers. Finally, I was looking for that just-right flavor, that elusive proportion of peanut flavor and candy flavor. Which is purely subjective, I realize. So here they are, in order of finish:
5. Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati, Ohio is the most amazing food store I have yet set foot in. It has become a periodic destination for my Mrs. and I to buy items that we cannot get anywhere else. While there I spied a brand of FBP in their expansive candy department. Really, with the breadth and depth of their selection of everything else, I was surprised to find but a single option. I don’t even remember the name but it doesn’t matter. Because they were just bad. Their crunch was OK (let’s give them a B there) but everything else was a D+ at best. The color was too pale and the flavor was the worst of the batch – too sweet with a slightly odd flavor that I could not quite identify. Let’s just say that I will never willingly eat one again.
4. Fresh Thyme is a small supermarket chain that specializes in fresh/healthy foods at reasonable prices. They offer a 1 pound package of FBPs that costs $5.99. JLM Mfg. Co. of Warren Michigan is the source, according to the label. These get an A for color but a C for crunch (too soft) and a B- for flavor. It is a shame that they are the most convenient for me to buy because they are the least appealing of the ones I have found close to home. Which is disappointing.
3. Menards is a home improvement chain out of Eau Claire, WI. Think Home Depot but with a decent candy aisle. They offer a line of candy packaged by an organization called MRCS Workforce. A 6.5 ounce bag costs $1.59 and therefore makes a very reasonable impulse purchase. These rate a C+ on crunch (not consistently crunchy enough) a B+ on color (they could be a little darker and richer looking) and a good solid B on flavor. I have found the biggest problem to be some variability in quality, so one bag is not always quite like the next. Still, based on their cost and their convenience, they are a solid contender for my FBP dollar.
2. I have written before about Wilson Farm Market in Arcadia, Indiana and about its wonderful collection of unusual sweets. I do not know the source but suspect that there is a local confectionery company that makes these as the market specializes in Amish and other locally produced food items. FBPs cost $3.99/lb and come in bags that vary a bit in weight from one to another. They earn solid As in crunch and in color and a very nice B+/A- in flavor (sorry, it must have been an indecisive evening.) These have become a Must-Buy whenever my Mrs. and I find time to make the roughly forty minute drive there. Which all works out because I get them rarely enough that I savor them when I do. Highly recommended.
1. The winner (surprisingly for me) came from Bill’s House Of Nuts (Billshouseofnuts.com), the fine folks who started this process rolling by the comment they submitted. The cost was $12.82 for an 8 ounce package. Yes, you read that right. Consider these a luxury version of French Burnt Peanuts, suitable for special occasions. At these prices they ought to be served from bone china bowls by a white-gloved English butler with a spoon of highly-polished silver. But hey, he said they were just like I remember. And while I was skeptical, he was pretty much right. I give these an A+ on appearance, on crunch and on flavor. These things are worth eating every day. The problem is that at these prices I couldn’t afford to. It may not matter, because the website indicates that everything they sell is sold out so they may not be dishing out perfect but pricey (I mean PRICEY) french burnt peanuts any more.
I guess not enough people are interested in a French Burnt Peanut of artisinal quality. But at least I got to try them and revel in FBP perfection, if only for one evening. But the workaday FBPs are good enough for normal use and now we know what some of them are. And if you are a FBP fan and have found your own preferred source, I would love to hear about it. After all, there is no reason we cannot do a Taste Test Part 2. As I said, anything for you, my good readers.