Critical Time: Peanut Crunch Sale Helps Church Serve Community

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Smith Valley Baptist Church volunteer Crystal Bevers pours hot peanut crisps into a pan to pull and cool as Vicki Elmore, right, watches Nov. 1 at the church. The Smith Valley Baptist Church has been making brittle peanuts every fall for about 40 years, using the proceeds to support missions in Johnson County.

RYAN TRARES | DAILY NEWSPAPER

Bubbling pots of corn syrup rolled on the multi-burner stove inside the Smith Valley Baptist Church under watchful eyes.

Along the line, volunteers constantly stirred concoctions of corn syrup, butter, Spanish peanuts, vanilla and more, carefully monitoring the temperature to ensure the batches were the right temperature.

At the right time, shouts of “Hot pot!” echoed around the church fellowship hall, as the gooey peanut brittle base was ready to be poured into pans and stretched to a glass-like thinness.

“Making peanut brittle is an art form. The peanut crunch we produce has a very fine and delicate texture that won’t break your teeth,” said Vicki Hollanders, church member and one of the volunteers who participated in the effort.

Making brittle peanuts has been a tradition at Smith Valley Baptist Church for nearly 40 years, though the exact timing of the annual fundraiser is unclear. Volunteers – both church members and those who like to help with the project – get together every November to bake batch after batch of sweet treats.

Sales of Brittle Peanuts help fund the church’s missionary work, especially supporting the Salvation Army, Johnson County Services for the Aged, and St. Thomas Clinic.

“We love doing it because we have a good fellowship with the people who do it. It’s people other than the people who go to our church, who we associate with,” said church member Sally Ward and volunteer.” They want to be part of the donation.”

Smith Valley Baptist Church in White River Township made Peanut Brittle as a fundraiser from the early to mid-1980s, although some claim it came together in the late 70s, Hollanders said.

Current members don’t know exactly how the idea of ​​making brittle peanuts came about.

” We do not know it. We tried to go back and find out, but we don’t know,” Ward said. “The story I hear is that there was a need in the church, and someone suggested making peanuts brittle.”

A member at the time provided a recipe for creating the Peanut Butter Caramelized Sugar Concoction.

From the beginning, fundraising for the Peanut Candy was intended to support the missionary work of Smith Valley Baptist. The church has supported programs and missions around the world, as well as national and local efforts, Ward said.

“It has always been a missionary project,” she says. “But over time we said we really needed it in our own region. So we picked three missions in Johnson County to give to.

The Peanut Crunch now supports Johnson County Senior Services, which provides food, transportation and a myriad of other services to seniors across the region; the St. Thomas Clinic, a non-profit organization providing free health services to those in need, and the Salvation Army Pantry, in which a number of church members were involved.

“Especially the pantry, which was really close to our hearts. It was something as a church that we wanted to support,” Ward said.

When it started, the church had a small fellowship hall and a kitchen with a large six-burner stove. The members banded together to make as many brittle peanuts as possible.

In 1996, the church was damaged by straight-line winds that blew from the roof of the structure. In rebuilding the church, the members chose to add a fellowship hall in the basement with a larger kitchen, which became the command center for the peanut-breaking operation.

Organizers were able to make more brittle peanuts, and now it’s common to cook up to 1,000 pounds of the treat each year, Hollanders said.

After so many years, baking has become a science. Batches move from stove to stove in an assembly line, with each volunteer responsible for carefully watching the pots until they are finished. Church members have determined along the way that raw Spanish peanuts work best, so every year they make sure they have plenty of nuts before they start cooking.

To add an extra blessing to each batch, volunteers measure vanilla into the small plastic cups normally used for communion on Sundays, Hollanders said.

“That’s the secret,” she laughed. “With some people it’s a pinch of this or a pinch of that. So our measure is in a communion cup.

But what really separates their recipe from other peanut crunches is that while they’re still piping hot, the batches are pulled and spread to a thin consistency before they dry out.

“Stretching is an important part. You have to stretch it,” Hollanders said. “It’s not fluffy; it won’t stick to your teeth.

Smith Valley Baptist sells peanut crisps at church bazaars and his own church every holiday season, and he has cultivated a following. People come back year after year and often ask if they can be shipped in large quantities to other parts of the state or country. For years, they helped support a fundraiser for a marching band in Missouri, Ward said.

Ward even sent some to family members when they were stationed in Afghanistan.

“He seems to hit the spot,” she said.

This year, the church will sell at the Bargersville Santa Train and Christmas Market on December 2. They also scheduled a couple of driving days to sell the brittle peanut. On November 19 and December 17, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., people can drive to church and pick up their 1/2 pound or 1 pound bags.

Fundraising for the peanut treat is hard work, with volunteers meeting several times in October and November to prepare. But all the work is with him.

“I love the legacy, that it’s been going on for so long,” Hollanders said.


IN ONE LOOK

Smith Valley Baptist Church Peanut Brittle Sale

What: An annual fundraiser to support local missions for the White River Township Church.

When: The church will be holding a drive-thru sale of peanut crunch from 9 to 11 a.m. on November 19 and December 17.

Where: 4682 W. Smith Valley Road, Greenwood

Prices: $11 for a one pound bag, $6 for a half pound bag

Pre-orders: Can be done by calling 317-881-6888 for support at drive-in events

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