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!