I’m not really sure where my mom got this recipe but I remember her making it every Christmas we lived in Walla Walla in the little house on Ankeny Street. I remember the tiny galley kitchen with the light blue painted cabinets, white electric stove and the shiny Waring dutch oven in which she made this fudge – I’m pretty sure she still has that dutch oven. I remember watching her stand at that stove – stirring, stirring, stirring the syrupy, amber-colored, walnut-studded candy. And every once in a while, she’d drip a tiny amount of the mixture into a bowl of cold water to see if it would roll into a ball – that meant the candy had reached the ‘soft ball’ stage and was ready for my dad to take over.
Candy-making was serious business and children weren’t allowed into the kitchen lest we get burned. So the red-headed, freckle-faced little girl waited and watched from the adjoining dining room trying her best to be patient . . . shifting from one leg . . . to the other . . .
Once the candy had cooled a bit, Dad would be called to the kitchen and he’d take the largest metal spoon we owned and began to stir and turn . . . stir and turn . . . stir and turn . . . until the candy had lost its sheen. By the time it had reached that stage, his arm had nearly given out and he would muster up one last turn with an audible ‘oof’ . . . and then . . . like magic . . . the candy was Vanilla Fudge!! I thought I would die waiting in that dining room for exactly this moment . . . for one of my favorite things . . .
Debra’s Mom but not sure where it came from originally
6 Cups Sugar
½ pound Butter
2 Cups Dark Karo Syrup
1 Cup Evaporated Milk (not sweetened condensed)
Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 Cups Chopped Walnuts, medium or rough chop
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
SMITH BITES NOTE: 2 cups of chopped nuts is NOT the same as 2 cups of nuts, chopped; you must chop the nuts before measuring to ensure the correct nut-to-candy ratio.
Cook sugar, butter, dark Karo syrup, evaporated milk and a pinch of kosher salt over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped nuts and cook over high heat to softball stage (about 230-235 degrees), stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla (SMITH BITES NOTE: add the vanilla off heat and stand back – the candy mixture will bubble); let cool until lukewarm. Beat by hand until the candy loses its gloss and starts to hold shape. Pound fudge into a buttered, parchment-lined, half-sheet jellyroll pan, cut into pieces and store in a covered container.
SMITH BITES NOTE: butter your jellyroll pan, cut parchment to size, then butter the parchment as well. This will make removing and cutting the fudge much easier.
You want the walnuts in larger chunks rather than finely chopped; this gives the fudge nice texture.
At this stage, when the candy has reached temperature, it is a soft caramel – both in color and in texture.
This is the color and texture you’re looking for after the candy has been cooled and then stirred; be forewarned – you will need some muscle to beat the candy to this state; the first time I made the recipe, I put it in a stand mixer but it didn’t work. The second batch, The Professor beat by hand and it came out perfectly!
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This is a wonderful story, Debra, and the fudge itself looks sensational. I’m a vanilla kind of gal, and this approach to holiday fudge – which is totally new to me – is absolute genius. Must try!
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So happy to see you post about this one! There is truly something magical about being a kid and trying to figure things out. 🙂 And if no one’s told you recently, you really have a gift for writing, because I can absolutely imagine you waiting in the dining room… and falling out of your chair before getting the fudge. Thank you for sharing the family recipe. 😛
Thank you Kim ~ every once in a while I have a memory so strong it’s as if I’m in that space, seeing all those things happen again. And for the record, I wasn’t a patient little girl, nor am I a very patient woman . . . I really appreciate your comment!
What a lovely story, Debra. I remember waiting in a similar way for my mother to cook the divinity each Christmas. Beautiful pillowy clouds made from egg whites and boiling hot melted sugar. Yum. Your fudge reminds me quite a lot of the penuche we make in the South. Caramely, buttery and loaded with pecans. Just may have to make a batch this afternoon.
Thank you Lana! Oh Divinity – until you wrote those words, I’d forgotten all about Divinity . . . I think my mother made divinity (or tried to make divinity) but I especially remember my grandmother making that. Yes, pillowy clouds that ‘poofed’ once in your mouth!!
Ah, you make me feel the magic of the fudge, the mystery for a young child and the excitement waiting for such a treat! This is fabulous, perfect fudge. You know, I’ve never made it before…
Jamie, I must say I’m shocked that you haven’t made fudge before – you make all these incredibly GORGEOUS cakes and pastries!! And believe me, when Christmas rolled around and I knew vanilla fudge was on the horizon, I thought I’d pop!!
I don’t think I have ever tried vanilla fudge, but this looks amazing!
What a lovely post, Debra. And such a lovely recipe, too. I can just picture you as a little girl standing there waiting on your parents to finish with this fudge. So cute.
I’ve got a vague recollection of this recipe & someone in our family making these too… could it be an Aussie recipe? It does sound very good though.
My sweet tooth is begging me to make this one.
For a chocolate lover, I do not traditional fudge, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this and can’t wait to try it! What a nice chocolate-y break.
There is something about Walla Walla and Ankeny street that make me giggle everytime I read it 🙂 Love it!
Love this fudge too… so yummy looking!
Oh Debra, this looks amazing!! I am such a fan of vanilla, I know I would love this.
But I love the story even more!! You sound like such a cutie patootie!! 🙂
Beautiful, Debra. I always enjoy your stories as much as your recipes!
When I was a kid it was the pressure cooker. We weren’t allowed in the kitchen while it was in use. So much exciting steam and rattling and danger!
Rowdy, once again you make me LOL – steam, rattling and danger . . . oh my!
This looks divine!
My mom couldn’t master the whole candy making process, but my aunt did. Chocolate fudge was the annual Christmas candy. Yum!
With all the candy that I make, I haven’t quite mastered the art of fudge making so I really appreciate your photo tutorial. I’m ready to give it another shot.
I am such a sucker for fudge… and especially white fudge or vanilla!!! Great recipe!
This looks too good for words. By the way, lovely hands. You could be a hand model!
oh p’shaw Marly!!!
Fudge is a must during the holidays! Great recipe!
Great memories from a great fudge recipe. Looks yummy!
Perfection! This looks soooo good! Your pictures are mouthwatering!
Wow that looks awesome! I love vanilla fudge! 🙂
What a sweet post! My dad is the fudge maker in our family. No one makes it as good as he does…and he must eat the first piece with a beer.
I’ve never heard of Vanilla Fudge….it sounds delicious!
The texture and chewiness of that as you pull on it– Wow. The only way you could capture taste any better on-line is if I had a lickable screen.
Wish I did.
I just made some peanut butter fudge which I had never done before (though it’s almost too easy – to make and to eat) and this is tempting me too. I love your story, thinking even as I make a recipe of my Grandmother’s about similar days and especially when I finally became old enough to help. I love everything I make of the few recipes I have from her; don’t those memories just make the food that much better?
MMMMmmmm Barb ~ had forgotten all about Peanut Butter Fudge! And the memories are what it’s all about – at least they are for me! There’s just something about making those things that just is just magical!
I have to admit I’m not usually a fudge girl, opting instead for cookies or cheesecake or pie, but twice now I’ve seen gorgeous fudge and just wanted to lick the computer screen. Yum. Plus, a Christmas workout before you eat the entire batch.
I’m not much of a chocolate fudge person Shaina, but I make exceptions for this fudge!
I’m not usually one for walnuts, but between your marvelous story and fabulous photos you may have a convert. Do you think that another kind of nut might work as well? What about no nuts?
Hi Lael ~ Thank you so much for your kind words about my story and the photos! The flavor of this fudge is almost like browned butter so whatever nut you might pair with brown butter would work here – pecans would be terrific, macadamia as well. And I’ve seen similar types of this fudge made without the nuts but for me, I love the creaminess of the fudge against the crunch of the nut – sublime!
You know, I’ve never been huge fudge person… fudge brownies? Yes. Fudge fudge… have never had it homemade, so I just don’t know the good stuff.
This, however, looks phenomenal… I must try it out!
I guess no self-respecting food blogger should admit this Brian, but I am not a huge fan of chocolate anything . . . I’ll eat it yes, and I do insist on the good stuff. But if caramel or raspberry or anything else is offered, that is what I’ll be choosing! This is good – very sweet, very rich so small pieces are a must.
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My mother never made fudge at home, but I can remember looking in the windows of all the fudge shops on Mackinac Island! The flavors! The colors, the smells! Divine!
Barbara ~ Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate fudge, never have been – but for whatever reason, I’m crazy about this Vanilla!
Attractive Vanilla Fudge sweet with walnuts.Lovely to eat.
Thanks so much – a holiday staple for sure!
I can just imagine you as a little whippershnapper, trying to wait *patiently* for the fudge to be ready! So cute! Gorgeous photos by the way! Just gorgeous!
Oh Wendy ~ patience is positively NOT one of my virtues – LOL!!! Add in the red hair and young age . . . well, you ge the picture!
What a wonderful story, and beautifully told. Your photos are mouthwatering. It’s too bad a stand mixer won’t work, though. About how long do you have to beat by hand?
Thank you so much! Once the candy is lukewarm, it doesn’t take long BUT I don’t have the strength to beat it and neither did my mother. I’m not sure why the standmixer didn’t work other than maybe with a standmixer it only takes a couple of minutes and I beat it too long? But the very second the candy starts to lose it’s gloss and change color is when it’s done! And you must work very quickly to pound it into your half sheet pan before it completely sets. As I said in the post, it did take me 2 tries before I had it right!
Deb-what great candy making story from your childhood. I picture your mom and dad taking turns stirring and little you anxiously waiting for a taste. This looks amazing!!!
Lora ~ This is one of those memories that is so specifically clear, I had to write about it. My dad has passed away and my mother has never adjusted. I’m sending her a tin of this fudge for Christmas!