I recently flipped through the pages of the October, 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping and came across this recipe for Opera Cremes. This beautiful, delectable treat is one of the best homemade candies I’ve ever made. The pecans and creamy sweetness blend wonderfully to create a decadent taste sensation.
I don’t know for sure why they are called Opera Cremes, but I do know that a hundred years ago almost every town—even small ones– had an opera house.
When my grandmother was a teen in central Pennsylvania, she sometimes mentioned going to the opera house in Watsontown in her diary. For example, on February 28, 1914 she wrote:
Ruth and I went up to Watsontown with Pa this evening. The senior class gave their play in the opera house. Was the best one I ever was to. Some parts certainly did call forth plenty of laughter. Can hardly begin to describe how much I enjoyed it.
Hmm . . . maybe between their laughs, they found time to enjoy a few Opera Cremes.
3 cups sugar
1 cup cream
1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup chopped pecans
approximately 4 dozen whole pecan halves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cream, and cream of tartar until well blended. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, and cook about 7 minutes without stirring until a very soft ball (237 degrees F.) is formed when tried in cold water. Remove from the heat.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. When tepid, stir in the vanilla and beat until creamy, then turn out on a board that is slightly dredged with confectioners’ sugar, and knead until smooth, working in the chopped pecans at the same time. Spread out in a shallow buttered pan, press on the pecan halves. Cool and cut into squares. Can also be shaped into bonbons.
Shh .. . . don’t tell my friends, but I’m already planning to make Opera Cremes again in December to give as gifts.