Oh, Fudge.

Tuesday was the Islesboro Sewing Circle’s annual fair, lunch, and bake sale. All year long the Circle makes quilts, dolls, table cloths and napkins, eyeglass holders, rugs, and scrubbies. Then for a a couple days before the event, members bake and make delectables of all sorts.

We always have fudge for sale, and so when Judy Coffin calls in late July, I know it is the annual request to make fudge. Frankly, fudge scares me. Actually, most confections do. I never have felt quite confident of boiling sugar, milk, and other stuff together and actually ending up with something toothsome.

Then we have had so much damp and foggy weather that I was dreading making my annual stab at fudge because moisture can have an adverse affect on candy, icings, and sugar-laden sweet stuff. One year, I made two batches of fudge in the fog but one refused to solidify and so I put it in canning jars and labeled it chocolate sauce. A zap in the microwave turned it into something pourable for ice cream.

Also, failure can result from product reformulation. If an older fudge recipe calls for mini-marshmallows or fluff or the like, the recipe might fail because manufacturers redesign stuff like marshmallows to make them less expensive to produce. Their ingredients might not behave the same old reliable way in a recipe as they used to. Make sure you use the most recent iteration of the recipe using those ingredients. So this year I chickened out a bit and went to the Internet to find a fail-proof fudge recipe.

The result miraculously firmed right up. It depends, though, on condensed milk and chocolate chips so it is a bit more expensive than fudge made from scratch with sugar, cocoa powder, half and half, corn syrup, and all that. I have to say that I feel like it is worth it, though, to know I don’t have to fret. You might like that, too, especially if you are a novice, or a coward like me.

I made one batch with walnuts, and the second one plain. Feel free to leave out the nuts or to use pecans, macadamias, or hazelnuts. Make sure you acquire a larger bag of chocolate chips, say a twenty-four ounce bag, and if you like milk chocolate better than semi-sweet, well, use that instead. The result is less grainy than traditional fudge and more like a coarse truffle, but it will scratch your chocolate craving itch.

Fudge

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Using a heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt over a low heat. Stir until it is smooth, take it off the heat, and add walnuts and vanilla. Spread evenly into 9 or 10 inch square pan lined with waxed or parchment paper. Cool until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board; peel off paper and cut into squares.

Makes two pounds of fudge.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.