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Candyland: Making Benne Seed Candy

July 24, 2011

Cat Coal PotWaves go up and down. Today I’m glad I was riding. We had a guest preacher in church and he jumped and shouted and anointed people with oil. I wondered why school teachers don’t harness the same showmanship and charisma. If we could only bring the same excitement to reading and math that George Washington brought to today’s sermon Liberia would be a different country. (Making serious mental note of that!)

After service Princess took me through the market and we bought supplies for benne seed candy. We melted the sugar and folded in the toasted benne seeds. My parents watched a show inside while I held court outside with the kids. This was serious business that required an audience. I stirred and Princess shaped the candy. I encouraged her to get creative and, with her playful smile, she did. She made stars, a cross, and her crowning achievement, a cup, plate, and spoon, “for Auntie Leelia’s own!” She’s such a sweetheart.

Things teetered on the edge of rowdy as we neared completion, but I threatened not to share and they calmed down. I told them we could make coconut candy next weekend if they were good. This sealed the deal.

I feel like I’m making small progress with Princess, like she’s quietly watching my every move and soaking it in. She’s a good friend to me and I’ll miss her in Sanniquellie. I hope she gets all the good things she deserves.


Liberian Market
1 big cup Benne Seeds ($80LD)
1 small cup Sugar ($40LD)

2½ to 3 cups Sesame Seeds
1 to 1½ cups Sugar

Wash the benne seeds in fresh water. Using a colander carefully remove rocks, sticks, dirt, and empty hulls (the hulls will float). If the sand is plenty carefully rinse everything a second time in clean water. Scoop the empty hulls off the top and put discard.

Place the clean seeds in a large pot and heat on top of the stove or coal pot to dry and toast. The seeds will start “popping” when they are dry. Continue until the seeds are golden inside and out. Mash a few between your fingers. If the insides are still white they aren’t ready. This is a long process on a coal pot.

Remove the seeds from the heat and place them in a clean pot. Return the empty pot to the heat and add the sugar. Let it melt, stirring occasionally and breaking any clumps that form. It will turn golden brown. Stir in the clean seeds and mix until coated and starting to thicken.

When ready, spoon out a small amount into a large clean pan and quickly shape or flatten before the sugar cools. Transfer to another pan to fully cool/harden and continue until all of the mixture is gone. Note: this part is easiest with two people so one person can stir the candy on the heat while the other person shapes the pieces.

Takes 2 – 2.5 hours over a coal pot in Liberia and an estimated hour in America. Yields 15 – 20 very large pieces of candy.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Candace permalink
    August 7, 2011 4:48 pm

    Your pictures truly bring these stories to life!


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