My maternal grandmother, Joyce, is famous for her chocolate fudge. I don’t know how many batches she’s made over the years, but its either hundreds or thousands at this point. Every Christmas Grandma gives each family, or grandchild living away from home, a box or tin of fudge – I think she plans on four families per batch of fudge. This is no small feat – she had ten children and there are a lot of us grandkids that have moved out on our own.
The fudge is only part of her Christmas gift to us each year, but it is probably the most coveted by many of us. I lost my other grandmother this past year and have been thinking of traditions that I’d want to preserve and Grandma’s fudge is one of them. It’s not like she’s the only one that makes the fudge; my mother has the recipe and has made occasionally over the years herself, but I decided it was time that I knew how to make this family recipe.
Now, this is an old fashioned candy recipe. That means, even though it’s not hard to make, there are many factors that can impact the success or failure of the recipe. My mother recently came to visit and help me do some cleaning and cook together, so I took the opportunity to ask her to teach me to make fudge. Our first attempt didn’t work out; it turned sugary right away, but we didn’t panic – the beauty of this fudge is that it is forgiving. If it turns sugary on you, all you have to do is throw it back in the pan with about 1/4 cup of milk and start cooking it again until it reaches soft ball stage and then cool and re-mix before pouring out again. You can do this as many times as needed (you just lose a little fudge each time to the pan that you’re not going to scrape). The first batch that I made with my mom we had to re-cook three times. Just to make sure I had the recipe down, I cooked it again for myself and this time it just took twice for it to turn out great – that’s just the way it goes when you’re playing with melted sugar.
My grandmother still mixes the fudge by hand after it has cooled – my mother uses her KitchenAid mixer set to the lowest speed using the paddle attachment. I used my mixer to good result. You just have to wait for the color to change to know when it’s done. If you watch the fudge the entire time the first time you make it, you’ll understand what I mean by going from glossy to matte – it will still have a little gloss to it, but dramatically less than when you started. I think this amount is what my grandmother would call a half batch.
3 cups sugar
4 Tbs. cocoa
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4.5 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla
Butter the sides of a heavy pan and add the sugar, cocoa, and cream. Mix and bring to a boil. Cook until the fudge reaches softball stage, or 235 F (if you drop a little of the fudge into a cup of very cold water the fudge will become a ball that will hold its shape). Remove the fudge from the heat and pour the fudge into a buttered, heat proof bowl. Do not scrape the pan since there might be sugar crystals attached to the side of the pan.
Add the butter and vanilla – do not stir the mixture. Let cool to about 100 F and then stir until the fudge has turned from glossy to matte.
Spread in a buttered pan until it’s about 1 inch thick. Place in a cool place to set completely and then cut into squares and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.