Buckeyes: “A Concealed Weapon”
My father-in-law always carried a buckeye in his pocket. There came a time when other family members did the same. It’s an Ozark custom, or so I was told when I moved from the East Coast to the hill country of south Missouri.
The glossy brown nuts have been carried since Colonial times, supposedly to attract good fortune. I’m not a buckeye hunter, so I depend on my neighbor, Paul Long, who usually bags a bountiful supply.
Only the Squirrels Know
Buckeyes are spiny-shelled nuts that grow on trees and are related to the horse chestnut. The foliage and fruit contain tannic acid that’s poisonous to cattle and humans. It’s said that just half the nut is lethal and only squirrels know which half. That might explain why they sometimes eat only a portion of the buckeye.
Should You Be Carrying a Buckeye?
Still the nut has been assigned powers, that put it on a par with a rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover. We have the Germans and Dutch to thank for that. They believed that carrying a horse chestnut would cure headaches, rheumatism, arthritis, and bring winning hands in card games.
When spread around the house, they were thought to keep spiders away, because the insects dislike the oil. But when horse chestnuts were scarce, our fore-bearers carried the buckeye.
I recall that Mel kept a basket of buckeyes in the Governor’s Office for visitors. I have a very old one in my collection of political items. A small McKinley for President campaign button, was impressed in the buckeye when it was still soft and stayed in place as the nut hardened.
Should You Be Carrying a Buckeye?
I wish I could tell you I know of some direct correlation between carrying a buckeye and the relief of ill fortune or achiness. Some comfort might comes from stroking the smooth, familiar charm when facing difficult decisions or enduring pain.
Here’s how I feel. It’s like “the cow that kicked Nellie in the belly in the barn; didn’t do her any good; didn’t do her any harm.”
But don’t let me discourage you from carrying. I just don’t have room for anything more. My pockets and purses are already stuffed with Kleenex, cough drops, reading glasses, and masks (in assorted colors). But if you feel you need some buckeyes for luck, decorations, or medical purposes you can buy them on Amazon, 25 for about $15.99, plus shipping. If you know an Ozarkian, you might be able to get them free.
Making Candy Buckeyes
As I mentioned earlier, real buckeyes are not edible. But you can make candy buckeye-look-a-likes by combining peanut butter with regular butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Roll into balls, insert a tooth pick and chill for a half hour.
Dip the peanut butter balls into dark, melted chocolate, leaving a small area showing at the top, so they look like real buckeyes. Perfect for a fall party or Halloween. The following recipe hails from Ohio, the Buckeye State, where they take their buckeyes very seriously.
Buckeyes (Peanut Butter and Chocolate Candies)
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vegetable shortening
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Beat the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer in a medium bowl until well combined. Scoop 2-teaspoonful mounds, and roll into balls. Arrange on prepared baking sheet and refrigerate (or freeze) until firm, about 20 minutes.
Microwave chocolate and shortening in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until the mixture is completely melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.
Stick toothpick into the top of each peanut butter ball. Dip ball into melted chocolate, leaving a circle of peanut butter showing on top. Let excess chocolate drip off, then return buckeye to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining peanut butter balls and chocolate.
Chill buckeyes until firm, about 30 minutes. Smooth out the hole left by the toothpick. Serve at room temperature or well chilled. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to a week. (Adapted from Food Network Kitchen)