In the little town of Duncan, Oklahoma, lived a woman who baked and baked. Pies and cakes she made year round. The fudge, however, came but once a year. Frances Spruiell, my grandmother (affectionately known as “Granny” to her family and “Dolly” to her friends), hunkered down in her kitchen every December and made about a baker’s dozen batches of her homemade fudge to be sent out as Christmas gifts. My parents, relatives and their closest friends eagerly awaited that glorious day when the customary box of sweets arrived in the mail. One year, Granny decided that maybe everyone was tired of getting fudge every year, and so she switched it up and sent other gifts. Well, a collective groan was heard throughout the South that fateful fudge-less Christmas!
One Christmas, as the family gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, we set out to recreate Granny’s fudge. This was no mean feat, given that she neither wrote her recipe down nor told anyone else how to make it. So with a light dusting of snow visible out of my Aunt Cindy’s kitchen window, my mom, her three sisters, one of my cousins and myself spent about an entire day making fudge. We made six batches. I was just along for the ride really. (Granny died when I was five, so I’d never had the fudge that gave her an illustrious reputation even though I’d heard it about my whole life.) The rest of them, their palates being well-acquainted with Granny’s fudge, knew exactly how it should taste. When we finally made Bennie’s fudge (Bennie is my aunt), we had a winner! Its resemblance to Granny’s was undeniably close. The techniques used to make this particular batch were also the closest to the way Granny used to make it. Between the ample football watching and fudge making going on that day, there were whoops of joy aplenty!
A reproduction though it may be, Bennie’s fudge is creamy, delicious and the very closest to Granny’s fudge we may ever get! So here we go…
First, to get it out of the way, butter a 9×13 (or slightly smaller) dish and chill it in the fridge. The fudge will be poured into the dish later.
Shaving the chocolate is the next step. This is neither as hard nor as time consuming as it sounds. (Or maybe this doesn’t sound hard or time consuming to you at all.) You can use a grater, or I simply used a sharp knife and ran it down the sides of the chocolate square, and it shaves off quite easily.
After shaving the chocolate, put it into a large pot along with the evaporated milk. Heat them both together over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has melted into the milk. This should take about five minutes. (Note: There will be very small specks of chocolate in the milk. It never melts completely, and I have yet to figure out this particular conundrum.)
Add the sugar and stir well, and then add the Karo Syrup. (The syrup gives the concoction a very nice sheen.) Stir it all until it comes to a rolling boil…the rolling boil bit is very important. This will take about five to eight minutes. (Note about these time frames: this whole thing is more about what everything looks like at each stage rather than the amount of time it takes, so don’t get too caught up in how long each step takes.)
The first few steps are straightforward, but in the next few we will journey into the slightly more obscure realm that is candy making. After that all-important rolling boil begins, let it keep boiling for a few minutes, and then spoon a small amount into a small glass of ice water. Stick your hand in and try to form a ball with the chocolate. If the ball forms, it’s ready. If not, wait a few minutes and spoon more into the glass again with fresh ice water. Repeat this process until the ball forms. Current fudge recipes would have you use a candy thermometer at this point, but as my grandmother never used one neither will I when making this recipe. Her method is old school yet foolproof.
Once the ball has formed, remove the pot from the heat and add the stick of (real) butter and vanilla. There is no need to stir. Let it sit for 20 minutes until the mixture is lukewarm. Then beat the chocolate for about five minutes until it thickens. (If you’re adding nuts, beat for three minutes, add the nuts and beat for another two minutes until thickened.) Take out the chilled, buttered dish, and pour the mixture in and smooth out to the sides. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares. A pizza cutter works well for making the squares the same size.
- 3 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, shaved
- 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
- 4 cups sugar
- ½ cup white Karo Syrup
- 1 stick butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 2 cups nuts, chopped (optional)
*Use a wooden spoon
- Melt chocolate with milk in a large pot over medium heat
- Add sugar and stir well
- Add syrup
- Stir until it comes to a rolling boil
- Put a little of the chocolate mixture in a glass of ice-cold water every few minutes. Stir occasionally and let it continue to boil until a firm ball forms in ice-cold water.
- Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla (do not stir) and let sit for 20 min.
- Beat until thickened, add nuts
- Pour into a 9×13 (or slightly smaller) cold, buttered dish
- Let it set in the fridge