This is time-consuming and requires two people, but it is DELICIOUS candy and our family has had it every year for probably 50 years. I have no idea who Aunt Bill was; my great-grandmother clipped this recipe out of the Daily Oklahoman and it was called "Aunt Bill's Brown Candy" even then. We all just call it "Aunt Bill's".
Aunt Bill's Brown Candy
6 cups white sugar, divided
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pounds pecan halves or pieces
1. Butter a 9x13 Pyrex dish and a medium heavy saucepan or cast-iron skillet.
2. In the buttered saucepan, combine 4 cups of sugar and the cream. Put this on very low heat; you want it to be simmering by the time the other pan is ready.
3. In the skillet, over medium heat, pour the remaining 2 cups of sugar. Cook, stirring constantly (and I do mean constantly -- do not let this scorch), until sugar begins to melt. Turn the heat down to low. Cook and stir until it is completely melted and is light golden brown.
4. Hopefully your cream/sugar mixture is now simmering. Pour the melted sugar slowly, in a thin stream, into the lightly simmering cream, stirring constantly. This should take time and you'll need to have someone with strong arms who can pour the melted sugar very-very-very slowly.
5. Cook the entire mixture now, without stirring, to a temperature of about 245 degrees (118 C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a firm but pliable ball. Remove from heat, stir in baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam up. Drop the butter in, stir, and then let the mixture rest without stirring for 30 minutes.
6. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, and keep stirring for 10-15 minutes until the mixture loses its glossy sheen. Fold in the pecans, then turn the candy into the buttered 9x13 dish. Let cool until just barely warm, and cut into 1" or smaller pieces. This candy is very, very rich, so the pieces should be small.
Give it a try! It's a fun "togetherness" activity, and the results are de-lish.