Autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Well, not quite. It is still warm. The geese are flying west — I don’t know quite why. Are they practicing for when it’s time to head south? Having a last fling before winter? I don’t know. It’s not yet really fall, but summer is mercifully past.
You can’t wear white any more, but you can make candy. All summer, it has been too humid to succeed, unless you cheat and use things like marshmallow creme or condensed milk, which of course we would never do. Here is a recipe for #1 daughter, who went out and bought a candy thermometer for the purpose.
2/3 c. half and half
1/3 c. light corn syrup
2 c. sugar (or less)
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 T butter
1 t. vanilla or pepermint
Combine cream, syrup, and sugar in saucepan. Cook, stirring, till sugar dissolves. Stir in chocolate till melted. Bring to boil, then cook to 238 degrees without stirring. Remove from heat and cool to 100 degrees without touching. Stir in butter and vanilla. Beat till it loses its sheen, or your arm falls off. Pour into buttered pan and let cool slightly. Score. Cool completely before cutting.
This makes the best possible chocolate fudge. Perhaps you do not like chocolate fudge. If that is the case, you may prefer this one:
2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c milk
1 T corn syrup
1 T butter
1 t vanilla
Follow the same directions.
Opera fudge is also known, in my family, as Bertha’s Candy, because Bertha made it every Christmas. She had three daughters, who did the beating with wooden spoons. They made big shirt boxes full for everyone they knew. Having done this all through their girlhoods, they naturally never wanted to make it again. And for years after Bertha’s death, no one did. People tried, but without success. No one remembered exactly how to make it. So people just reminisced about Bertha’s wonderful candy.
Last year, I typed her ingredients into google and tried all the recipes that came up until I found the one my mother said tasted like Bertha’s candy. In order to be consistently successful with the candy, I read “The Physical Chemistry of Making Fudge.” I recommend that you not attempt to make fudge without reading this article.
My favorite story about the origins of fudge is that girls made it in the dorms at Vassar over spirit lamps. If they had just come from class in supersaturation and crystallization of substances, it could be true. But I question it, because no way did they have candy thermometers. On the other hand, all the failed batches of Bertha’s candy made excellent ice cream topping, or you could just enjoy it with a spoon.
Once you understand the physics of the thing, you can succeed every time. Opera Fudge is good with fresh cranberries, or peanuts, or dipped into melted chocolate. The people at Russell Stover say that they freeze all their candies, so if you make it now, you can put it in your freezer for the holidays. However, you must not open the package until it reaches room temperature. You Have Been Warned.