Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grandma's Fudge

If my brothers are reading, they should act surprised Tuesday night when they receive these little boxes.    Grandma's fudge was one of our favorite things she made.  She would mix up a pan of it for Christmas and other special occasions and "just because," as well, and keep it in a box on top of her dining room buffet.  One summer week as a kid while I was staying with her and Papa, I told her I wanted to learn how to make it, and she went along with it, showing me how quickly I needed to stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallow cream and reminding me to make sure my pan was at-the-ready when the time came, even though it was really too humid out that week to be cooking fudge at all.  That first batch, despite Grandma's patience and tips and tricks, didn't turn out, and I didn't try it again until after she died in 2001.  Someone needed to keep the fudge tradition alive, and at least a few pounds of the weight I gained during grad school in the next few years can be attributed to my determination to figure out the recipe.  (And the bread recipe.  And the meatball recipe. . . .)  

It isn't difficult--no candy thermometer involved--but took me a few tries to get just right.  The original recipe is here, but I go by the rewritten version in my little cookbook.  I need to update my little cookbook a little bit, though, because I've learned more since adding Grandma's recipe to it.
I knew I really had it down when I arrived home for my younger brother's wedding in July of 2011 and was greeted by my mom with a bemused "Brian's asked you to make some of Grandma's fudge for the reception."  That turned into another humid summer day of fudge-making, but by then, I knew enough fudge secrets to be successful.  I use butter not margarine.  Butter.  As soon as the 1.5-sticks-of-butter/3-cups-of-sugar/exactly-2/3-cups-evaporated milk mixture begins to boil, set your timer for five minutes and stir it all five minutes while it bubbles and makes your kitchen smell like Grandma's.  Five minutes.  All five minutes.  Have your ingredients open and your 13" x 9" pan greased/prepared ahead of time.  And begin washing your Fudge-Cooking Pot immediately after you're done with it.  
One of the things I wish I'd thought to save from Papa and Grandma's house was the deep saucepan Grandma used for this recipe.  This pot's another one of theirs, but I wish I'd had the foresight to take the other one too.  Dad made me the sturdy wooden spoon below.  It's extra-tall and perfect for stirring thick fudge with its big billy club handle. 
Not realizing when to begin the five-minute countdown for the boiling stage was my mistake with my first however-many batches of this fudge.  Set your timer when you first see bubbles at least as big as the ones below.  Stir constantly, and I mean it.  The sugar can get scorched if you don't, and the more you stir, the smoother the fudge will be.  Gritty fudge still tastes good but doesn't do Grandma proud.  Off-subject, Aunt Laurie sent me that sweet pot holder last Christmas, and I treasure it.  Grandma's recipe and pot, Dad's handmade spoon, and Aunt Laurie's pot holder.  This fudge recipe was brought to you by love, thank you. 
And you will need to feel the love after you add the bag of chocolate chips, and then, most especially, after you add the marsmallow cream, because the fudge will already have the consistency of fudge at this point and will be hard to stir. I use the smaller (7 oz.) jar of marshmallow cream, but the fudge turns out with the large jar too.  It's just a bit softer in both color and consistency when the extra's added.
That my grandmother, even in her early nineties, made this fudge for us as often as she did--and voluntarily, and without complaint--is a testament to her love for us, truly, because the incorporating-chocolate-and-marshmallow stage makes the arms ache.  I marvel at her strength every time I cook this.   
Quickly pour it into the pan, begin washing the pot, and let the fudge cool.  I've just opened the kitchen window and let the pan chill on the stove-top under it the past few times I've made it.  By the time I've finished all the boiling and stirring and am starting dishes and kitchen clean-up, a wide-open window feels like heaven anyway. 
Target had the little treat boxes in the top picture in their dollar section, so I picked up two and packaged some fudge in them to add to my brothers' Christmas presents.  Walnuts omitted for Brian.  Christmas sprinkles added to the top of the entire batch, although I'm sure Grandma would shake her head at this newfangled addition to her recipe and murmur, "Well, I suppose that's okay. . . ."  :)  Best Fudge Ever.   Love to you all this Christmas.  December's been a blur this year.  I see my family--and meet Bianca--Tuesday!  Life is sweet.  


Blondie's Journal said...

What a very sweet thing, having these memories AND the recipe for the fudge!! Thank you for sharing it. I think I've only made fudge once and I don't remember stirring it a lot so it must have been a quick old standby recipe! lol! Your family is going to enjoy this so much, you're a dear for standing in for grandma! :)


La Table De Nana said...

You are very cute Val:-)
Love the sentiments..and that spoon:-)
Pretty packaging too:-)

Carola Bartz said...

What a lovely recipe - thank you! I think I will try this out. My family will probably love it.

Lisa said...

Oh, Auntie will meet the little one at last! Wonderful.
(that spoon is a fudge spoon for sure)

Marie said...

Oh Val, I love these Christmas traditions that we all treasure and keep in our hearts. My mother always made peanut butter fudge at Christmas, which we loved. She used a certain pot to do it in and measured by the pot, sadly pot is longer around, although we do try to recreate it each year. Somehow it's never quite the same though" Happy Christmas to you! xxoo

9peasMom said...

Hi Val, that fudge looks amazing and your sharing about your Grandma is heart warming! I've never really made fudge but I'm pinning this recipe so that I can try it during the Holidays while kids are all home!

TJ G said...

I adore fudge beyond all reason, and the sentiment behind the recipe makes it all the sweeter!

TiffanyJane said...

Well, that does indeed look like the Best fudge ever!!! And how great are can't buy those at the store!
I have never made fudge, but I sure know how to eat it!!!! :)

Merry Christmas Val!!!

Val said...

Thank you all. :) ♥

asmplelife said...

This really is the best fudge ever. I'm so glad you shared the recipe AND all your tips and tricks. Your family is so very blessed to have you take on this great job - fudge maker for the family. Grandma's shoes are big to fill but you're up to it, Val!!

Val said...

Thank you, Cheryl. Grandma would be pleased. :)