Growing up, my Nana used to send us massive care packages full of the most delicious treats – cookies, fudge, candied walnuts. I looked forward to these packages every year, and now as a parent to my own brood, I’ve been wanting more and more to pass on recipes to MY kids. This year has really made me realize that I am going to really be the Matriarch of my family. I’m not close to my sisters, except one. I haven’t talked to or seen my brother in years, unfortunately. We can’t afford to see our family in California, or our parents very often, and they can’t afford to come visit us. This was one of my main reasons for wanting a large family. I knew that my kids were only, really, going to have each other when they grew up. They aren’t going to be close to their cousins (except perhaps Deanna’s kids), if they know their cousins at all, and I really want them to have a strong sense of family. So for the past few months, I’ve really concentrated on establishing traditions to pass down to them, that they can pass down to their own kids. My Nana’s recipes were some of the things I wanted to pass down to them.
My dad’s ex wife has been so kind to send me some of her recipes, and I’ve been trying them out over the past few weeks. The sugar cookies turned out okay, but the pregnancy does not let me enjoy them, because they use a lot of lard and this baby does not like the taste or smell of it. I haven’t tried the candied walnuts yet, but I will attempt them in the next few days! Today, I tried my hand at fudge.
My Nana’s fudge is not the ooey gooey kind people think when they think fudge. It’s not marshmellowy or any of that nonsense. That’s not “real” fudge in my opinion, that’s a new type of fudge that is more like a gooey brownie than a candy. My Nana’s fudge is old fashioned, sugary, crumbly, and absolutely heavenly. I should admit that my Nana got her recipe from the old Hershey can, so technically it’s Hersheys fudge, but it will always be my Nana’s fudge to me.
I attempted making this about 10 years ago with my sister Jenny (and I think my brother was present too). It turned out awful. Of course, we didn’t follow directions very well, or use a candy thermometer, but it made me absolutely terrified to attempt to make it. I don’t take failure well, especially in the kitchen.
I’m not an expert cook or baker, but I do like to think I know a little about both. Baking and bread making are definitely a passion of mine, and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at candy making, but I’ve been too afraid. I think I have found some confidence in it! I expect I’ll be making a few tutorials about different candy goodies!
So now on to what you really care about – the tutorial.
You’ll want to line an 8 or 9 inch pan with foil, and then rub it down with softened butter. This helps to set your fudge and to keep it from sticking.
Mix the first three ingredients in a LARGE sauce pan. Trust me, you want it large, it expands a lot when it starts to boil. Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the bulb isn’t touching the bottom.
Once it is all mixed up well, add the milk and turn the heat on to medium. Stir constantly with a WOODEN spoon. You do NOT want to use a whisk or anything metal. The metal, for some reason, reacts to the fudge, and it won’t turn out well. Also, stir very gently; it will take a while to mix up but as it heats up it will help. Continue stirring until it comes to a ROLLING boil.
Now, STOP STIRRING. Let it continue to boil until the temperature reads 234 degrees. Your thermometer might also read “soft ball” at this temperature. This is because you can test your fudge by dropping a bit into VERY cold water. Feel it with your fingers; if it turns into a soft ball that flattens when you remove it from the water, your fudge is at the right temperature. Because this is a candy, temperature is VERY important. It will take about 20 minutes to get to this temperature, but I suggest not venturing far from your pot. I just cleaned the kitchen and checked on it like a mad woman, I was so afraid of failing!
Once it has reached the appropriate temperature, take it off the heat and drop in the vanilla and butter, but DO NOT STIR IT. I just chopped my butter into 4 pieces and poured the vanilla around the whole pot. This is vitally important, do NOT stir it in.
Let the fudge cool until it reaches lukewarm temperature, which is 110 degrees. The original recipe said this would take 2-2.5 hours. Mine did not. It reached it in about 1 hour. So check your thermometer frequently and don’t rely on set time that it will take to cool. Just like anything, the amount of time it will take depends on a number of factors. Also, the fudge will settle, so reposition your thermometer to make sure it is still IN the fudge. Thankfully, my husband caught that!
Once it’s reached 110 degrees, take your wooden spoon and stir it. Stir, stir, stir. It will be TOUGH and similar in consistency to taffy, so if you have someone who can help, you stir let them help! I couldn’t stir much at all because of my arms, so Chris did the majority of the stirring for me. Continue stirring until it loses it’s sheen. This is where Chris and I made our mistake. The original recipe said to stir until it loses it’s sheen, about 20 minutes. It started to lose it’s sheen about 10 minutes in, so Chris and I thought it was close, but we continued to stir. We missed the mark by 30 seconds. The second it starts to lose it’s sheen, TRANSFER it to your foil. We waited 30 seconds too long, and it set up right in the pan. Doesn’t make it taste any different, but we didn’t end up with pretty cut squares.
So as soon as it starts to lose its sheen, set it in the pan and let it cool. It won’t be the most pretty fudge, it’s not glossy at all, but it’s crumbly and delicious and melts in your mouth.
See ours is all broken into strange looking pieces, but it tastes just like I remember!