My mother is known for many things, but chief among them is her famous Christmas fudge. Each year, lucky friends and family make out with a tin or two. And until my grandfather passed away last year, she would always make an enormous gift basket for him each year at Christmas, filled with several different kinds of the sweet, creamy, toothsome confection.
The fudge isn't coveted so much because the recipe is some great secret. Instead, it's the sheer amount of effort and attention required while tending to the fudge that makes it so good. Certain techniques, certain utensils, a certain level of patience -- all are required to make the perfect batch of fudge. And if you're willing to devote yourself to an afternoon over a hot stove, I'll teach you how to make the kind of fudge that if given to heads of state around the world, would most likely usher in a new era of sweet, fudgy peace.
Mom's Christmas Fudge
The first thing you'll need are the proper accessories: a wooden spoon and a big pot, preferably of the Dutch oven variety. Cast iron to Le Creuset: as long as the pot is deep, thick and heavy, you're good to go.
Now for the recipe:
- 3 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup salted butter (the butter must be salted; I strongly recommend Plugra)
- 1 can (5 ounces) of evaporated milk
- 1 package (12 ounces) of semisweet chocolate chips (high quality chocolate chips are important here)
- 1 jar (12 ounces) marshmallow cream
- one cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts but, to quote my mother, "you could live dangerously and use hazelnuts or pistachios")
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Combine sugar, butter and milk in a heavy Dutch oven. Bring to a full, rolling boil and stir constantly. Again, to quote my mother, "don't use this time to change light bulbs, clean the birdcage or trim your herbs...it needs constant attention."
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Continue boiling until your candy thermometer reaches 234°, again, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. And here's the important part: while most recipes will tell you to stir for only five minutes, they are wrong. Stir until your arm is screaming with pain and until the mixture takes on a -- sorry -- phlegmy consistency, about 20 minutes. And therein lies the secret to truly great fudge.
Remove the pot from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Stir until completely melted. Add marshmallow cream, nuts and vanilla. Use a hand mixer to beat the mixture on low until well-blended. Pour into a 13x9" pan and let cool.
When the fudge has cooled, cut into squares and put into decorative tins, baskets, Ziploc bags, etc., and present to your awed friends and family. While they will be utterly amazed by your newly-aquired fudge-making skills, know this: those who live by the fudge, die by the fudge. People will hound you for this fudge each holiday season for the rest of your life. But, hey, can't say you weren't warned!
--- Katharine Shilcutt