Do we all remember the dark ages before free trade when there was a big difference between grocery availability in Canada and the US? Dill Pickle chips and Shreddies were the highlights of what we could exchange with our American cousins for their Cherry Coke-led cornucopia. Not much leverage there, except before Christmas when the value of Shreddies sky-rockets because it is the workhorse of the greatest of all snack mixes, Nuts and Bolts.
My aunt Kim has my grandmother’s recipe posted on Squidoo but this year I decided I’d add my own twist to it. (And really isn’t that what recipe blog posts are for?)
Job one was to accommodate my own (petty) preferences. This recipe in summary is a whole bunch of cereal, nuts, and pretzels toasted in flavoured butter from which they soak up salty, savoury deliciousness. If Shreddies are the Babe Ruth of flavour-soaking, pretzels are below the Mendoza line. Also, if it weren’t for the salt, pretzels would taste like the twigs they resemble. I don’t like pretzels.
Next up is the butter. Don’t get me wrong, melted whole butter, when lightly browned, is one of life’s most delicious things but I thought we could do better. Predictably, this meant subbing some rendered bacon fat for some of the butter. But also doubling down, I threw in the drippings (fat and the brown bits) from an all-belly porchetta I made recently.
If anything it was the smoke from the bacon (homemade and quite smoky) that failed to come through. But the garlic-accented porchetta really shines. And the pork fat adds a mouth-coating roundness that makes a handful of these more satisfying than usual. And if that means I witness fewer bear-snout-in-the-honey-pot type incidents with containers, than all the better.
On the spices we need to do some modernising. The original calls for a pinch of garlic salt to roughly 20 cups of other ingredients. Those were definitely different, WASPier times.
Finally the original calls for melting the butter in the bottom of a roasting pan, adding the spices, and then the cereal before mixing. I prefer to melt the flavoured butter separately and pour it over everything. I feel like less goodness is lost to the pan that way.
Nuts and Bolts
Adapted from my grandmother’s recipe that my aunt has posted here.
The ultimate holiday party snack that some of you may know as party mix or Chex mix.
Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Yield: 25 cups. If you’re not making this for two different parties, and then twenty or so family members I can understand if you feel you need to halve the recipe.
- 715 g (what passes for a “Family Size” box these days, or 12 cups) Shreddies
- 330 g (12 cups) Cheerios
- 730 g (5 cups) skin-less, roasted, salted peanuts
- 200 g (4 cups) pretzels (sticks vastly preferred over knots
- 340 g (1 1/2 cups, 3/4 pound, 3 sticks) unsalted butter
- 115 g (1/2 cup) some combination of bacon drippings, or pork roast drippings, mainly fat
- 3 TB Worcestershire sauce
- 2 TB celery salt
- 1 TB garlic powder
- Preheat your oven to 200F.
- Melt butter and pork fat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, and garlic powder and stir.
- Pour the Shreddies, Cheerios, peanuts, and pretzels into one of those old tyme roasting pans whose high-sides make them not very good for roasting, or divide between a couple modern roasting pans. Pour over butter mixture and put in pre-heated oven.
- Stir every twenty minutes for two hours. At about the hour-and-a-half mark taste for seasoning and just with more salt if needed. This will vary especially depending on whether your peanuts were salted, etc.
- Let cool before storing in sealed containers. The pork means that refrigeration here is a good idea but they should last there for a few weeks.