Good friends are one of the things that make the holidays wonderful. When good friends can come together to share good food…well, there is hardly anything better than that.
From the very beginning of this blog, my friend Kathleen has been one of my most loyal readers. Long-time readers of EYHO may remember Kathleen as the source of these incredible banana oatmeal muffins. Last year, I helped her make a few of her grandmother’s old candy recipes as a surprise for her mother, one of which was this fudge. As soon as I tasted the final product, I knew I had to share this recipe with you all. But because it was so late in the season by that point, I waited until this year to present you with this recipe.
This recipe is so good that I have literally waited a year to share it with you.
But instead of regaling you with how perfectly rich and creamy this fudge is, or how my family thought they’d died and gone to Heaven when I brought this recipe to Thanksgiving, or how it really isn’t scary to make fudge at all (I have given you detailed instructions…you’ll do fine!), I thought I would let Kathleen tell you about why this recipe is so important to her and her family. After all, I really do believe that it is the history of this recipe that really gives it that something special.
Marjorie (Marge) Strohm was a beautiful soul that loved her family above all else. My grandma loved everything about cooking, especially cooking for her family. She also loved everything about Christmas! Going to her house around the holidays was always a treat. She lived in the countryside of Madison, Indiana, and every year, the first stop I made once we arrived was to the breezeway that had a table full of wonderful treasures. There was everything from sugar cookies to German Chocolate Cake, Mexican Wedding Cakes to (my personal favorite) divinity, and then there were the other three phenomenal fudge varieties: brown sugar, coconut, and chocolate. All of these recipes were carefully hand-written in her own personal cookbook. She would write “good” next to her favorites, and the Brown Sugar Fudge recipe happens to be labeled as “real good”, so obviously it has to be one of the best recipes in the world (it also happens to be my mother’s favorite). The whole family would snack on these tasty treats throughout the holiday, sneaking more before and after the big meals. Grandma was always so happy sharing her amazing gift with the rest of us. I swear I would gain 10 pounds every time I visited. Her dried beef gravy (also known as chipped beef) for dinner and homemade apple sauce for dessert was my absolute favorite meal! And her Chicken Casserole… don’t even get me started. Like I said, that woman could cook.
After she passed away in 2009, my mom experimented with making some of the fudges, but she never had much luck getting them right. Finally, last year I recruited Stephie to help me make them as a Christmas surprise for my mom. With her assistance (and excellent taste-testing), we were able to make all of the different types of fudges that I had missed for a few years. I’m actually surprised that any of the brown sugar fudge made it back to my mom – we could have eaten it all right then and there. My mom was flabbergasted, and she was so happy that that small part of her mom could live on through her food. Now I plan on making them again with my mom this year, and I know that the tradition that Marge started years ago will continue for a long time. It’s crazy how food can do that, but that’s what makes it truly magical. And delicious. 🙂 Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!
Note: You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe. Mine is pretty old-school – almost identical to this one – and works great, though there are some more new-fangled versions you can certainly get.
One more note: Before you mention how much sugar is in this recipe…I did not say it was diet food. I just said that it was delicious. *End note*
- 4 cups brown sugar
- 1½ cups half-and-half
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, but highly recommended)
- Add the brown sugar, half-and-half, and butter to a medium-sized saucepan. Place over medium heat. Allow sugar and butter to melt, stirring occasionally.
- Place a candy thermometer in the pan, making sure that the tip of the thermometer is covered by the sugar mixture but is not touching the bottom of the pan.
- Bring mixture to a boil, and allow to cook until it reaches the soft ball stage, or 234 degrees. Once it reaches this stage, remove from heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees. DO NOT STIR it during this time! I mean it. This particular stage will seem to take forever, so walk away from it. Go wash some dishes, sweep the floor, read a book...go do something else and check on it every few minutes. Just don't stir it.
- While the candy is cooling, grease an 8x8-inch pan and line with parchment paper.
- Once the candy gets down to 110 degrees. add the vanilla and the chopped nuts and, with a wooden spoon, stir the bejeezus out of it until the mixture thickens, loses its glossy appearance, and starts to take on a "creamy" look. This may take 5-10 minutes, and will get tougher as the mixture cools. Think of it as a great shoulder workout.
- Pour the candy into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Allow to sit at room temperature for several hours (overnight is even better) to allow it to set. Once set, remove from the pan (the parchment paper should make this easy), and cut into small squares. Place in airtight containers lined with wax or parchment paper and store at room temperature.