Aw, fudge!

Reeses-Peanut-Butter-Cup-Fudge_Laurens-LatestThis week we celebrate National Fudge Day on June 16.

Here are some fun facts about fudge that you can memorize, and recite later to dazzle your friends:

The basics. The Foodimentary blog gives the official definition of fudge as a type of Western confectionery which is usually very sweet, and extremely rich. Fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk and heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 °F. You beat the molten mixture as it cools, and the resulting candy has that smooth, creamy fudge-like consistency.

If you ever go to the Iowa State Fair, or to the candy shop at any amusement park, (see Silver Dollar City video, below the jump),  you’ll know: confectioners (that’s a fancy name for candy-makers) make many different varieties and flavors of fudge, from peanut butter, to mint, to maple pecan, to …. chocolate.
silver-dollar-city-fudge-alicia-anne-willis

Maple-Pecan-Fudge-delightfulmadeIn our minds the default fudge recipe is chocolate, but that hasn’t always been the case. The ingredients and method for making fudge traditionally don’t include chocolate. In fact, they are very similar to the traditional recipe for tablet, a Scottish candy which dates all the way back to the 17th century. Fudge that is chocolate, it turns out, is an American adaptation.

Oh, fudge. Mental Floss says that when American-style fudge was (accidentally) invented, it changed the previous meaning of the word fudge: In the late 17th century, fudge was a verb meaning “to fit together or adjust [clumsily].” By the turn of the 19th century, the word fudge was used to mean a hoax or cheat. By the 1850s, the use of the term “Oh, fudge!” was a kid-appropriate phrase often used when something had been messed up.

Pardon my French (caramels). The story may be apocryphal, but the story, cited in numerous sources, claims that the first batch of fudge was created when someone was trying to make French caramels and “fudged” up. The name stuck.

Fudge-silver-dollar-city

Flirting with disaster. While fudge was a popular confection, it was slow to catch on as a make-it-yourself treat. Heating sugar and butter to a very specific temperature (that “soft ball” thing again), for a specific duration, was “one of the most difficult confections to make properly,” and resulted in grainy, hard, inedible globs if improperly made. As candy thermometers became more readily accessible for home use in the early 1900s, it became much easier to accurately gauge temperature and make foolproof fudge.

That’s a lotta fudge. I’m not sure why we’re surprised, but yes, there is an actual Guinness world record for the largest slab of fudge, the record unbroken since 2010. The record-setting batch by the Northwest Fudge Factory in Ontario weighed 5,760 lbs (more than two tons!). It took them more than a week to make the massive treat. We have read that this Canadian record-setting treat contained maple flavoring, which seems fitting.

Mamie-Eisenhower-BirthplaceThe Hostess with the mostest: Fudge was a favorite dessert of American President Dwight D. Eisenhower. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, dubbed the “Hostess-in-Chief” by the White House staff at the time, achieved some notariety with her recipe for “Mamie’s Million-Dollar Fudge,” which Ike especially loved.  (Ask your grandma: she probably still has a copy of this recipe, which was widely circulated in the 1950s and 60s). There’s even an Iowa connection to this story: Mamie Eisenhower was born in nearby Boone, Iowa, in 1896. (Her birthplace is pictured. )

Does all this fudge talk make you hungry? Here’s a link to several fudge recipes from the AllSpice recipe database!

Photo credits:
Peanut Butter Cup Fudge
Silver Dollar City candy shop
Maple Pecan Fudge
Silver Dollar City chocolate fudge
Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace