Every Christmas, my uncle Austin cooks up gallons of granola to give as gifts. The lucky recipients know that this isn’t just any granola—it’s an addictive treat that once you start, it’s difficult to stop eating.
He’s been making this granola for as long as I can remember. And being a humorous fellow, he always packages it with silly labels such as: “New! Jimmy Dean All Organic Granola;” “Chef Roscoe’s Famous Style Granola made by the Sanitary Food Co.;” “Name Brand ‘Fancy Style’ Granola;” “Jesus’ Favorite Granola (He says that about everyone’s granola and means it);” and my favorite, “Health Camp Hi-Carb Granola: Preferred by Nudists Everywhere.”
But no matter how the bag is branded, it’s what is inside that counts. And Uncle Austin’s amazing mixture of organic oats, nuts, coconut and dried fruits is a salty, sweet treat that is just as good with milk or yogurt as it is straight out of the bag.
One Christmas, the family gathered at my mother’s house in Houston. Everyone was able to make it, except for my grandparents who weren’t feeling up to making the trek from their farm six hours away. My uncle Richard, who lives in Dallas near the farm, was given a bag of granola to take back to my grandparents. But the bag should have been kept under lock and key because by the time the granola arrived at the farm, half the bag was gone! “Why did you eat their granola?” asked Austin. Richard replied, “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself, it’s so good!”
I like to share food with my friends—it’s a friendly thing to do. But when it comes to Austin’s granola, I have to be careful. A few years ago, I let my boyfriend at the time have some of Austin’s granola. He loved it, as everyone does. I told him this was powerful, precious stuff that was only received once a year, so we needed to be judicious in eating it. He agreed. Then, the next day I returned home from work only to find he’d eaten the whole bag! “Why did you do that?” I asked. “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself, it’s so good!” he replied.
Without Austin’s recipe, I had tried to recreate his granola but I had met with little success. Then last month, Austin’s computer hard drive was wiped out and the technicians were unable to save anything. He was sad and thought he’d lost everything. But one thing was saved: his granola recipe. Fortunately, it was that time of year when he makes his annual batches and he had just printed his recipe to use as a shopping list. And while he doesn’t need a recipe to make his granola as it’s all in his head, he wanted me to share the recipe with the world so it would never be lost.
He wrote: “I’ve worked on that recipe for years. Some people seem to like it a lot. I finally wrote it down two years ago while adding ingredients and made notes while doing so. Richard said it was the best ever, maybe it was. Anyway, losing everything, as if in a fire or flood, though not nearly so bad, made me want to share my granola recipe, just so it’s there for everyone to enjoy.”
So here is Uncle Austin’s granola recipe. Of course, it won’t taste just like his because recipes never do. But don’t worry, you’ll make it your own by adding your own passion and something special. And in the meantime, when my batch this year runs out, this will tide me over until next Christmas when Austin will bestow upon us his grand, grand granola.
Uncle Austin’s Granola
- 10 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup dried milk
- 6 cups nuts
- 5 cups dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 to 1.5 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 to 3 cups currants
- Preheat the oven to 300 °F.
Combine the oats, dried milk, nuts, coconut, and salt. Stir in the oil then stir in the honey and vanilla until all is well combined. Spread it evenly on 2 sheet pans.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring with a spatula every 5 minutes, and rotating the pans after 15 minutes. Like cookies, it’s best to take it out before it seems done. When it feels hot to the touch and is a light golden brown, it’s ready. After it's cooked, stir in the currants.