The Family Fudge

When I was growing up we rarely had store bought candy. On special occasions my mother, at the begging and insistence of her children, would begrudgingly concoct a tin full of fudge. Begrudgingly I now understand, because the process is time consuming and even a little bit of a workout, but totally worth the effort.

For many generations my entire family and especially my Uncle Bob – who provided the closest thing to this recipe – made this fudge. If you were to believe the family lore, this recipe has been in our family for more than 100 years. There have been things added and subtracted and nuts and peanut butter have always been an option, but the rich and creamy fudge is a window into the history of a poor family who made the most of a few ingredients. My mother told stories about growing up in the depression and how things like fudge were a really special treat. Tastes and smells reinforce the oral history of a family. At Christmastime especially, they long outlast any outward remnents of Christmas past.


  • 4 Cups Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Light Karo Syrup
  • 4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
  • 1 Stick Butter (8 Tablespoons)
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts (or whatever you like)


  • Heavy Saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Wooden Spoon
  1. Combine the sugar and cocoa in the bottom of the saucepan.
  2. Add the karl syrup and then the milk. Stir together.
  3. Turn the heat to medium to medium high and bring to boil, stirring constantly. This will take a little time.
  4. As soon as the boil starts to roll, turn down to a simmer.
  5. Add 1/2 of the butter and the salt. Stir just to combine.
  6. Place the candy thermometer onto the side of the pan. Do not stir the mixture. The mixture needs to rise to 235 degrees or soft ball. This is a little tricky as the mixture tends to decrease as it simmers and the thermometer sometimes becomes exposed. Depending on your conditions and the temperature the whole process should take between 45 minutes and an hour. You can test for soft ball by taking a spoon and removing a small portion and dropping it into a drinking glass full of water. If it forms a soft ball on its own and does not color the water, it is ready.
  7. Remove from heat and submerse in a cold water bath.
  8. Add the rest of the butter, vanilla and nuts at this point. Stir just enough to combine.
  9. Let cool until your finger can be submersed without being burnt.
  10. While it cools, butter an 8×8 pan.
  11. Once cool, beat with a wooden spoon until it turns color from shiny to mat and bubbles rise up as you fold it over. You need to pour it in the pan right before it completely sets up. This whole process can take from 10-15 minutes.
  12. Pour into pan or dish, cover and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  13. Cut into 1″ squares before it completely hardens.
  14. Let cool for another 20 minutes or as long as your family can take. Will last at least a week in a covered tin.

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