Last weekend I made fudge. A LOT of fudge. It was for the Christmas cookie exchange, and yes, I know fudge is not a cookie. But who doesn't like fudge? Yum.
I decided to make fudge for the cookie exchange because I have this recipe, originally from my step-grandma, that makes enough fudge for a small village. I found this out years ago, when I made it for a Christmas party and afterward I still had so much left over that I didn't know what to do with it all. Other than eat it, I mean. It seemed rather efficient to make fudge for the exchange, since I needed nine dozen treats, and a batch or two of fudge would surely take a lot less time than making nine dozen cookies. (Not that I don't love to bake, because I do. But still.)
This particular fudge recipe is divine; it's that classic creamy, firm, basic fudge that your grandma made, nothing crazy like any weird flavoring or even any chopped nuts. So a few people have asked me for the recipe. And herein lies the potential problem.
This recipe was mailed to me, ten years ago, by my mom. She typed it out (typed! it was a long time ago) and there's all sorts of silly commentary and inappropriate vagueness. Now, you have to understand, this is how my mom often gives me recipes, especially longstanding family recipes. (No hard feelings, Mom!) They'll be all vague and nonchalant--her version of my grandma's Thanksgiving stuffing recipe says things like, "Then pour some boiling water over the bread cubes; but not a whole lot, because you don't want it all soupy! Just however much seems right"--or, rather than listing all ingredients at the top and then spelling out the method below, she'll write the recipe like a prose poem, with ingredients mentioned here and there in the middle of later sentences, so that you get halfway through the recipe and realize there are more things to add. (Love you, Mom!) So, this fudge recipe lists ingredients such as "the large can of evaporated milk" and "a giant Hershey bar" (the latter appended with, "I will send this in the package I am mailing to you," so that I never had to annotate what a "giant" Hershey bar really is, because it came to my door).
The large can? What? There's only one can. Is it large? It sure doesn't seem very large. In fact, it's pretty small! And "giant"? What does that mean? Is your definition of "giant" the same as mine? Who knows.
Last week, in anticipation of fudge-making, I e-mailed my mom to get some clarification. It turns out that the large can of evaporated milk is 12 ounces. And the giant Hershey bar? Eight ounces. Fortunately, the marshmallow fluff was rather specific: "a two-pint jar." OK. Fair enough.
So on Saturday I went to the grocery store to get my fudge ingredients, now satisfyingly specific. Twelve ounces. Eight-ounce bar. Two pints. That's, what, four cups? No problem.
Only....it seems that in the 30 or whatever years since my step-grandma gave this recipe to my mother, all the food companies downsized their product sizes. The evaporated milk was the same 12 ounces, but the "giant" Hershey bar is now six-point-something ounces. Actually, our store was out of the six-something ounce bars, so the next-largest size was 4.4 ounces. The marshmallow creme? Comes in seven or 13 ounce jars now. Thanks a lot, Kraft.
What to do? I had to get this right! This fudge was for the cookie exchange! In the end I figured I'd just go with rough approximations of the ingredient amounts. Eight ounces of chocolate? I'd just buy two of the 4.4-ounce bars and--bonus!--eat a little bit of each one. Thirteen ounces of marshmallow fluff? That's pretty close to 16 ounces, which is a pint, right?
So that was what I was dealing with: a recipe that not only started out completely vague, but ended up with unavailable ingredient amounts. If I was lucky, it would come out fine anyway.
In the end, in the busy grocery store aisles, I got so befuddled that I accidentally bought only half the necessary amount of marshmallow. And made the entire first batch of fudge that way before noticing. (It turned out fine, by the way.*)
So here you are: my fudge recipe (with the vague ingredient amounts clarified--but not necessarily available). Merry Christmas! Good luck!
Good Luck Christmas Fudge
makes 6 lbs.
1 stick of butter or margarine
4-1/2 cups white sugar
1 12-oz. can of evaporated milk
1 12-oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 8-oz. Hershey bar (milk chocolate, no almonds), broken into pieces
2 pints (that's 32 oz. total) marshmallow creme (TWO! TWO pints! Not just one.)
In a very large pot, heat butter/margarine, sugar, and evaporated milk to a rolling boil. Keep boiling like that for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the chocolate chips and the Hershey bar pieces and stir until melted and smooth. (Do you remove the pot from the heat while you do this? I do not know. Good luck!) Add marshmallow creme and stir until blended.
Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Put into the refrigerator, covered with foil, to set. When set, cut into 1-inch-square pieces.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I must reluctantly add that, though my first, large batch of fudge turned out great, it yielded only eight of the nine dozen necessary pieces; and when I went to make a second, half batch to finish off the project, my entire pot of fudge seized when I added the chocolate to the butter-sugar-evaporated milk mixture--which, if you've never had it happen to you before, as I hadn't before Sunday, is an absolutely crazy, nearly instantaneous occurrence, and while it happens in about two seconds flat, time sort of slows down too, like in a dream or in the moments right before you're in a car crash, and you find yourself wailing, "Nooooooooooo!" even as it's happening and you know there is no saving that pot of fudge.
I had to throw the whole thing away and give the ninth person a dozen pumpkin white chocolate-chip cookies instead. There was no way I was going to start making a third pot of fudge at that point. Not that the ninth person minded, I am sure. (FYI: I wandered around on the Internet, and it seems that most likely my butter mixture got too hot--even though I was following the recipe to the letter--and apparently this can happen in, like, 30 seconds or less.) So, anyway...seriously: GOOD LUCK.