KINGSTON TWP. — It only took one suggestion from a lady at the Hometown Farmers Market in June to open a door of possibilities for peanut brittle maker Lynn Yasenchak.
“This woman came up – she would buy a bag every Wednesday, and she said, ‘I just have to tell you, I love your peanut brittle but can’t you do anything else?’” Yasenchak said. “On the ride home that day, I thought, ‘I could do something else – there are tons of different brittle recipes out there.”
The customer’s comment not only spurred Yasenchak’s imagination to add different nuts, seeds and freeze dried fruit in her brittle but also resulted in her effort to revitalize interest in the retro candy and renaming her business from LL Peanut Brittle to Backwoods Brittle LLC.
The 44-year-old started LL Peanut Brittle in May, after ending a 20-year career as a social worker.
“We called it LL because it was a recipe my mom uses,” Yasenchak said. “Her name is Linda, and my name is Lynn, LL.”
When Yasenchak returned home after that fate-changing encounter, she invited her mother and boyfriend David Parente to her Back Mountain home to brainstorm on potential brittle flavors.
“We tried just mixing different concoctions together, and we came up with the sesame, sunflower almond (brittle),” Yasenchak said.
The following week, she took the new flavor to the Hometown Farmers Market to give out as samples and gauge the public’s interest.
It was a big hit.
“The next thing that I knew was that people were literally buying me out of the sample,” she said. “My entire sample bag, which was probably about three pounds, was selling.”
Yasenchak, along with her mother and boyfriend, continued recipe experiments, which expanded The Backwoods Brittle Company line from one flavor to three, including peanut brittle, butter pecan brittle and sesame, sunflower and almond brittle.
Recently, she added toasted coconut brittle to her regular lineup.
“Making brittle is a science,” Yasenchak said. “One small mistake and I can lose the entire batch.”
Timing has to be perfect, so the sugary liquid does not burn, and neither do the nuts, she said.
She played around with all natural ingredients and started a ‘flavor of the week.’
“Every week, I tried something different,” Yasenchak said. “This is how I got the idea to do something different, so it is not so basic.”
One trial led to the discovery of a strawberry almond brittle.
“I used freeze dried strawberries that gave a light texture, summer flavor,” she said, noting the moisture in fresh berries would have adversely affected the candy’s consistency. “It is still brittle, but just a different type of brittle.”
Peanut brittle was accidentally created in 1890 when a Southern woman mistakenly added baking soda instead of cream of tartar to a taffy mixture, according to CandyFavorites.com.
In the fall, Yasenchak will introduce a cranberry walnut brittle as well as other unique flavors.
“What is happening, the peanut brittle is almost fading in sales because the other odd concoctions I’m coming up with are selling better,” she said.
Yasenchak has kept her business operation small, opting to work out of her home and sell her products.
She received approval from the Department of Agricultural after a representative inspected her home and spare bedroom, which is used as a product storage area.
Parente helps her package the candy and handles her accounting.
“It is hard,” she said, noting on cooking days she spends at least 12 hours in the kitchen making different brittles.
Once the candy is cooled and cracked, it is packaged in small brown paper bags with labels listing the all natural ingredients.
Yasenchak takes her products to several farmers markets, which include The Back Mountain Farmers Market in Dallas, Tunkhannock Farmers Market at Creekside Gardens, Mountain Top Farmers Market, Avoca Farmers Market, and Hillside Park Farmers Market in Clarks Summit.
Also, she is scheduled to take her crisp, sweet confections to the Plymouth Kielbasa Festival on Aug. 11 and 12 as well as the Back Mountain Harvest Fest on Sept. 17.
The Lands at Hillside Farms, off Hillside Road in Kingston Township, carries her brittles.
She plans to roll out the Backwoods Brittle LLC website in September and will then accept holiday orders.
Yasenchak is also open to flavor suggestions. Customers may place orders by calling 570-472-4707.
Someday, the confectionery entrepreneur hopes to expand her operation outside of her home and into a larger location. But until then, she is content providing customers a nostalgic taste of simpler times.
“I love it when people tell me ‘it (peanut brittle) takes me back in time,’” she said. “Or ‘I remember my grandmother made this.’”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.