I’ve been making fudge for over 30 Christmases. Somewhere along the line, the division between helper and doer blurred between my mom and I during the cookie and candy making fervor of Christmas, the net result being me making fudge for many a Christmas. For most of those 30+ years, I used my mom’s awesome recipe. But then my parents had a house fire and the recipe card disappeared before I could copy it down for myself. That was only the second year I didn’t make fudge since turning about ten or eleven years old. Then, a few months later, I received a copy of my Grandma’s fudge recipe and I’ve been back in the fudge making business since.
The first Christmas Mister Soandso and I were dating, I made an extra batch of fudge when I got home on winter break and then mailed a package to his family in Minnesota. I boxed up the fudge, a can of Swiss Miss and a bottle of Schnapps, stood in line for a coon’s age at the post office and then drove home, content in knowing I had sent a little Christmas cheer to him and his family. The receipt of that gift spawned a saying he and I toss about still to this day. Since I wasn’t there, who knows how it really went and who said what. In fact, none of that matters. What matters is that he and I say it to one another as code for “I love you” and “thanks for all the gifts over the years” and “I’d do it all over again”. What we say is, “Marry her; she makes good fudge.”
And usually, I do. I think I’ve had only 2 or 3 fudge making debacles in the 30+ batches of fudge I’ve cranked out. But last night marks the birth of another one.
Mister Soandso asked me to make a batch of fudge so he could give some to his team at work. Last year I made my “Kristina’s Killer Coffee Cake” and we gave them home roasted coffee beans along with it. It made them very happy employees. Making a batch of fudge for them this year seemed like child’s play. Only this year, the game got ugly.
No, the fudge didn’t turn out grainy or soupy. It turned out crumbly. And while it may taste quite lovely, I didn’t think I should bag up a bunch of fudge crumbles and a spoon as a way of saying “Happy Holidays!” So I did what any respectable candy maker does in this situation (7:30 in the morning and nary a bar of chocolate to be had in the kitchen). I punted. A move, which I’m pretty sure my Grandma would had approved of.
My Grandma LaPlant was a hoot. Or at least, that’s my memory of her. I have a great photo of her – she’s wearing a big smile on her face, a floppy hat on her head and is striking a pose much like Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid. That’s my Grandma–always one I could count on to make me smile. She wasn’t always that way, but that’s my favorite way to think of her. A little over the top but someone you could count on. And the fudge recipe she wrote out for me is very much like how she was–a little over the top but something you can count on.
Except when a bunch of little things go wrong and add up to the whole thing not turning out quite like you planned.
I’m sure my Grandma never planned to be a divorced mother of an infant in 1945. Or a woman who spent her whole life staying one step ahead of the bill collectors. Or burying so many of her siblings. Or seeing her grandchildren so little. Or struggling to tell her oldest child she loved her, just before dying, cancer having robbed her of her voice and another day. But I am sure that my grandmother was a woman who loved life and whose batches of fudge and knitted sweaters warmed many hearts and bodies besides mine.
So this morning, when I cut into that pan of fudge and realized it was not going to be a winning batch, I panicked a bit. Then I made some more coffee, calmed down and tried something new. I pulled those crumbly bits of chocolate together, let the heat of my hand melt it a bit and rolled a whole bunch of chocolate balls. I coated them in powdered sugar and cocoa powder and bagged them up.
Maybe they don’t look like fudge. But those little balls will taste like fudge. And hopefully each recipient will feel their hearts be warmed a bit.
I think it is time for me to retire my Grandma’s Fudge recipe. Oh, I’ll still get it out every Christmas. For me. To read it and remember her. But I will recopy it for my own kids to watch me get out each year. For them. And I will add the following notes: if this fudge doesn’t turn out quite right, that’s okay. It will still taste great. Roll it in powdered sugar, or serve over ice cream, or just eat it with a spoon. Things don’t always turn out like we plan, but that’s okay. In the end, it’s the taste that matters.
In case you are curious, here’s the recipe.
Put in a very large bowl:
1 lb Hershey’s bar
3 packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup SOFT butter
2 cups walnuts
2 tsp vanilla
20 regular sized marshmallows
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water, sprinkled over marshmallows
In a large pot (6 quart or so), mix 4 cups granulated sugar and 1 regular sized can of milk. Bring to rolling boil and cook for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over ingredients in bowl and stir until mixed. Pour into a large, well buttered pan. Cool overnight. A 12×16 inch pan makes fudge about 1 inch thick.
*I have used a variety of chocolates – I like to use 1/2 pound of Hershey’s and 1/2 pound of dark chocolate. The nuts may be omitted. And if you are worried, it turned out crumbly because of a series of small errors – my butter was too cold and some of the chocolate came out of my freezer. Hence, the boiled candy cooled too quickly. Still tasty tho!