We first moved to Philly to start college, our first time living outside of Small Town USA. The transition was made slightly easier knowing that our grandparents (and other assorted family members) were located just an hour away. Over the years we've spent a lot of time with them, and truly, part of the joy of living here is getting to know them in a way we just couldn't living 1000 miles away. A few years ago, our grandma was on a bit of a health kick and decided to make her own granola. After the first batch, there was no going back- this stuff was truly addicting, a delicious breakfast, snack.. heck, I've even had it for dinner. Not only was it the best granola we've ever had, but it was made in huge quantities, and no trip to their home was complete without a bit of granola. We were even lucky enough to get our own stash to take home at times; there was nothing better than being greeted with "We have granola for you!" One evening, hanging out with our cousin, we eschewed a social event in lieu of heading to the g'rents house-- nothing more than "But Grandma has granola!" was needed to seal the deal.
Just a few months ago, we lost our grandma to lung cancer. As devastating as this has been emotionally, we have also been granola-less. Our grandpa and other family members have taken to making it on occasion, but eventually J and I decided we needed to make it ourselves- both to get our granola fix and to continue this small piece of our grandmother.
We headed into her kitchen, ready to learn the trade, complete with her own granola-making-ware. Don't be too intimidated by the recipe list- this will make more granola than you can eat, so if you're down for the challenge, we suggest either halving the recipe or finding friends and relatives to share with. The recipe straight from her own files:
I set out mixing the wet ingredients, while J and our grandpa tackled the dry. On my end, I combined a cup of maple syrup, 3/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of (natural, creamy) peanut butter, and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. All of this went into a pot on the stove, and was heated until it came to a boil, stirring constantly. As it heats up, everything melds together and thickens to form an almost fudgy batter. You can also add the brown sugar to the dry ingredients, but ours was a bit hard and crumbly, so we melted it into the wet stuff. You may also notice that the ingredients I added don't quite match the recipe-- one great thing about making granola. Substitutions, compromises, additions- it's kind of like "kitchen sink soup." As long as you don't go too overboard and stick to the basic ratio of ingredients, you'll end up with a delicious concoction.
Meanwhile, in a giant baking pan, the dry ingredients were being brought out. An entire large container of oats (which we later realized was three cups too much.. oops!), wheat germ, slivered almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, currants- all in quite massive quantities- and a touch of salt. Again, additions and substitutions can be made here based on what you have on hand and what your particular likes and dislikes are-- different seeds, nuts, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, the works. The best way to mix all of this is by hand-- meaning, get your hands in there and get mixing!
After this is done, it's time to mix the wet and the dry. Our grandma patented her method for dealing with the hot liquid-- dish gloves! Slowly pour the mixture over the dry ingredients, while mixing and kneading everything together with the gloves on. It'll still be hot, but it will be bearable. With this shear quantity of stuff, it may take awhile to get everything incorporated, but it's critical to the success of the granola. No dry oats should remain!
At this point, we packed up half of the wet granola to take home and bake, leaving our grandpa with a half tray of the goods. The baking process is a long one- about three to four hours at low temperature- but thankfully, requires little attention. Spread the mixture over a baking pan or dish, no more than about two inches deep. Leave in a 175F oven, and mix about every hour or hour and a half. This allows the granola to slowly dry, and the low temperature maintains more of the nutrients of the contents. The final product was finished in about four hours (but will depend on the quantity made), and while I was nervous about knowing when to take it out, it was quite obvious. It's just like granola! Allow to cool before packing away. It'll stay good for several weeks, but trust me, it never makes it that long. Just a note about nutrition: the fat content causes it to be a very filling meal or snack (a 1/2 cup serving keeps me full for hours!). Even as a small amount goes a long way, it hits that perfect combination of salty and sweet.
We're happy to have this granola back in our lives, and while it doesn't have that special Grandma touch, we will definitely continue to make this for years to come. While nothing will ever replace having her here with us, her memory lives on in so many way-- in our hearts and in the kitchen!