Growing up, we always had fudge around the holidays. My Great Great Grandmother passed down her peanut butter fudge recipe from the Great Depression and most of my dad’s side of the family makes it in tradition now. The story is that she used to make this fudge just before the peanut butter spoiled (I suppose peanut butter was much better for you then). It was a treat for the family and a way to avoid wasting food. I wish I were this good about not wasting food! (especially since she made candy out of it). Sometimes we avoid produce like kale a little too long and it spoils. Apparently not my Great Great Grandma. If I could figure out how to make Kale into candy I might eat it more often….

I can’t remember how old I was when I started helping with the fudge making. It is a bit tricky because the recipe doesn’t have Alton Brown food science behind it. You actually have to know terms like “softball stage” and be able to decipher when the gloss is beaten out. I didn’t make the peanut butter fudge this holiday, but I did turn to a very simple (you might even say cheater) recipe given to me my M’s aunt. I believe it appeared in the Chronicle years ago and she has been making it since.

The super easy fudge recipe doesn’t require a thermometer and consists of three base ingredients: Chocolate, Vanilla, Sweetened Condensed Milk. You can add in what you like. I decided this would be a good item to send to my brother in law who is currently out of the country. I sent some candied pecans as well and don’t know for sure yet whether they made it. I made 24 little fudge balls in my mini muffin tin complete with snowman paper liners. I’m sure he will appreciate all of the cuteness (note the sarcasm here).

If you can microwave chocolate without burning it, you should try this recipe, if this sounds terrifying, just stick with a double boiler. I like to use semi sweet chocolate or darker chocolate since the sweetened condensed milk has such a high sugar content. In the past I have added nuts, Andes Mints, and peanut butter chips. This time I just added white chocolate chips because they seemed least likely for someone to dislike.

The only trick to this fudge is not overheating the chocolate. It takes as few as three 30 second intervals in the microwave to melt. Just remember to stir a lot after every zap. The less time in the microwave the better. Like I said before, you can still use a double boiler if you want, the microwave just makes it that much easier (and leaves fewer dishes to wash afterwards). The final product is not going to be as good as something from a fancy fudge shop, but it’s still worth trying. If you don’t overheat it, it will be creamy, and depending on the additions it will have a nice texture.

I’m including my family recipe for you to try if you wish. It takes a few tries to master unless you are a skilled candy maker. I might try it again to see if I can make the instructions more descriptive. I don’t plan on making it very soon… all of the holiday candy is making me feel guilty about my lack of exercise during our visit home.

Fool Proof Fudge
San Francisco Chronicle

18 oz chocolate
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C chopped nuts (or whatever you wish to add)

Prepare an 8×8 inch pan by lining it with waxed paper, set aside. Melt Chocolate with sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler or the microwave. Working quickly, stir in vanilla, then nuts and spread into prepared baking dish. You can reserve some of the nuts for the top or add additional nuts to the top – press them in slightly. Chill for 2 hours, remove from pan and peel off waxed paper. Cut into 1 inch squares and store covered at room temperature.

Great Great Grandma’s Peanut Butter Fudge

2 C sugar
3/4 C milk
5 Heaping Tablespoons of plain or chunky Peanut Butter
Mix ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until it reaches soft ball stage, stirring constantly. (Check for soft ball stage frequently). Remove from heat and beat with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until mixture loses most of its gloss. Transfer to a buttered pie tin or 8×8 square pan. Let cool and cut into squares.


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