A couple weeks ago our 12-year-old granddaughter was talking about another grandmother making fudge, but our granddaughter had never seen how this is done. Well….
I told her that the next Wednesday when she rides the school bus to our house on early-out day, we’d make fudge. She also was talking about caramels, so I told her we’d make caramels, too!
It has been a couple years since I’ve made any candy, since we don’t need to eat this calorie-laden stuff anymore, but I know how, and since I had an eager learner around, I knew we had to do this. After all, this is family tradition!
My mother has always told the story that on the Sunday before Christmas her father (my grandfather) always wanted his wife (my grandmother) to make fudge. That was the only candy he ever wanted, a batch of fudge on the Sunday before Christmas. This isn’t just any fudge, this is stir fudge. You cook the mixture to just the right temperature (without stirring), then add butter and let it cool to just the right temperature, then you stir it, just until it “turns.” You only know when it has turned when you are experienced at making it! If you stir it too much, the candy turns sugary. If you think it is done too soon and pour it out into the pan, the fudge will never set up. You stir it until it is just right! (Sound like a certain fairy tale?)
My sister and I learned how to make stir fudge from our Mom and Dad. Mom cooked the mixture and Dad stirred. My husband and I follow the same tradition.
So, this last Wednesday, we were all set to make stir fudge. By the way, the barometric pressure also has to be just right–it can’t be going down!
I discussed all of the ingredients with our granddaughter. I explained the difference between unsweetened chocolate and the other kinds of chocolate. I explained how we only use “cane” sugar. So many variables! We got all of the ingredients assembled and cooked to the 232 degrees. Then we added the butter and set the pan outside to cool (it was below freezing outside). She kept tabs on the temperature while we made the caramels (a traditional recipe from my husband’s mother). Fortunately, the caramels were poured into the pan to cool at about the same time the fudge was 110 degrees, the temperature for stirring.
My husband started the stirring, but let our granddaughter have a couple turns, and I took a turn as well. Then, all of a sudden, the mixture turned, but something just wasn’t quite right. We poured it into the pan, anyway and the mixture set up, but it just didn’t act right. Then when we scraped the pan with our tasting spoons, it just didn’t quite taste right, either.
I reviewed all of the ingredients and I hadn’t forgotten anything. I started reviewing any possible variables. It was then I realized the last time I made fudge was probably before I switched to using unsalted butter in our home. I researched the Internet and sure enough fudge needs salt to give it structure. Who would have known? Obviously, I didn’t. Now I do!
The fudge melts in our mouths and tastes ok, but it just isn’t quite right. I’m not making another batch of this sinful treat this year, but I’ll bet I buy salted butter the next time I make it!