In our family, it's not Christmas without Mom's famous Christmas fudge. An old-fashioned (no marshmallow fluff here, folks) chocolate fudge full of pecans. Throughout the month of December, we will cook up and devour several pans of the sweet chocolatety confection. Just for you, I made a batch and photographed the process. Sweet of me, wasn't it? Well, I try!
In an iron skillet (the old splattered cookbook page says iron skillet and we have never tested fate by using anything else), combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 8 tablespoons of cocoa.
Add 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup or 1/8 tsp cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons of butter.
Bring it to a boil. The smell of boiling fudge is embedded in my memory as Christmas. That and fresh pine and tangerines.
You have to cook it to soft-ball stage. Now, of course you can use a candy thermometer, they all have soft-ball stage marked on it. I don't have too much luck with them. For one thing, you can't clip it onto the side of an iron skillet, it only will clip on to a deep pan. Another thing is that they often measure inaccurately and have to be tested in boiling water and adjusted to show the correct temperature. A bit too much for me to mess with when I need a pan of fudge. So I will now show you the simple and fail-proof cold water method. You will thank me. You're welcome!
Above you can see the lovely fudge boiling away and a cup of water with a drizzle of fudge in it. The water must be cold, not iced, but cold tap water. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drop a good teaspoonful of the hot fudge into the water. It will be liquidy and kind of dissolve. You have to keep boiling.
A few minutes later, the teaspoonful of fudge will make a squishy ball in the water but it will by almost too soft to pick up out of the water. In another minute or two, the fudge will make a soft ball that you can easily pick up. It should form into a ball but slightly flatten as it sits in your hand. When that happens, pull the pan off the burner. You did it! Now wasn't that easy? Just be sure to change our the water between tests and it's very important to sample the "tests" each time to be sure you got the recipe right. When the kids catch onto what you are doing then you have to share with them. Set the fudge aside to cool for 10 minutes without disturbing.
Now, roll up your sleeves and beat the dickens out of it with a wooden spoon. You have to beat it until you are sure your arm is about to fall off. As soon as it starts to get glossy and thick, stir in 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans. Stir them in quickly or it will set up in the skillet. Then as fast as you can, spread the fudge in a buttered 8 inch cake pan and let it cool. When you can't stand it anymore, turn it out onto a platter and cut it into pieces.
The final product will be determined by how close you get it to soft-ball stage. A little under, it will be creamy and soft, a little over and it will be firm. However it turns out it is delicious, even a "flop" will be devoured. Anyway you do it, it's part of our Christmas. I hope you try it, it might just become part of yours! Oh, don't forget to let any kid who happens to be around "clean" the pan with a spoon. They will love you forever.