Mama’s Fudge – A Not So Elusive Recipe & A Story of Torture
My mom made the very best fudge. It was the same fudge her mom made. And let me tell you, it is the best thing you’ve ever eaten. It’s not that gooey stuff you are accustomed to in the south…it doesn’t have marshmallows (grossss). It’s kind of gritty. It melts in your mouth. And did I mention it’s so good? I’ve seen small children throw themselves on the floor and weep when told they could have no more.
Here’s the thing – my mom always made things difficult for herself – no matter what the task. We would ask her to make this fudge and she would moan and groan about how hard it is to make, how it takes sooooo long, you have to stir FOREVER…seriously…forever. We would have to agree to do extra chores in order to get her to agree to make this special treat. You know, rake the leaves. clean our rooms, do the laundry, wash the dishes, etc. #allthethings As I got older, I asked her to give me the recipe. Her response: there is no recipe, dear, no measurements, no timing – it’s all eyeballing and standing on your feet until the syrupy mixture gets just right. Humph. That’s really not helpful, Mom.
I am here to tell you that none of those things she said about the recipe and its difficulty is true. Rude. I’m also here to tell you while it’s relatively easy to make, it does require that you follow a few rules.
First – the “secret” recipe. Drum roll please….it’s Hershey’s! Apparently, it first appeared on the side of the cocoa container in the 40s before being taken off some years later. My mother never wrote it down. Neither did her mother. Hence the “I don’t have a recipe” line. See, there was no Google back in the day. My mom passed away 2 and a half years ago and with her went this amazing treat. That Christmas would have been the first year without her fudge, so I turned to Le Google (that’s not French, Heidi Grassi) and starting typing in things like hard fudge, old fashioned fudge, gritty fudge, fudge without marshmallows and ultimately found a cooking forum with many stories similar to mine. I’d found it! I got down the sugar. Poured the milk. Stirred. And stirred. And stirred. It didn’t work. I was rewarded with sludge. I tried 4 more times with no success.
Not deterred, I went back to Google and did some more reading. A few things stood out – candy thermometer, cold water for testing and DO NOT STIR AFTER IT COMES TO A BOIL. What? Do not stir? Blasphemy. How many leaves did I rake a kid because my mother had to stir? You mean she was doing it all wrong? Hesitant and slightly mistrustful of this new information (Mom is supposed to always be right, right?), I set out to try again. Sugar. Milk. Cocoa. Candy Thermometer. Ice water for testing. And a little prayer that my family would have our regular Christmas treat.
It worked. It really, really worked!
- 3 cups of sugar
- 1.5 cups of milk
- a dash of salt
- 2/3 cups hershey’s cocoa
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Once it starts to boil, stop stirring. Insert your thermometer and step away.
- Once the thermometer reads 235 degrees (the soft ball stage), QUICKLY drop a spoonful in the ice water. Does it form a ball? Yes, then it’s ready to come off the heat.
- Drop in the butter and add a splash of vanilla
- Let sit for a minute or two.
- Now stir, stir, stir, stir….until the gloss goes away.
- Now pour. Go fast!
- Let sit for about 20 minutes and cut into squares.
- Eat all the pieces.
A couple of things:
- Don’t even bother if it’s raining. It simply won’t work.
- You must use a wooden spoon at all times. Metal spoons will kill your fudge. Kill it dead.
- Use whole milk or 2%
- When you get to the soft ball stage, you must work fast. If you do not, you will end up with hardened fudge in your pot and a sad heart.
- This is a great way to get your children to perform all sorts of tasks. But, that’s really, really mean.
In the end, I am glad for this story. I wish my mother had made things easier for herself by using a candy thermometer and measuring cups, but in the end, the fudge wouldn’t have been so special had she followed the rules.