BiCon Vanilla Fudge

This originally appeared in BCN issue 102.

For the past couple of years, I have brought a box of home-made fudge to BiCon.  The recipe is the long-lost recipe of my mother’s; she used to make it for, among other things, the ALC stall to sell at the Liberal Party conference. It’s ‘long-lost’ because it was written on the inside of a cupboard door in our kitchen, and the recipe was cleaned off by accident shortly after she died by someone who didn’t realise that it was the only copy.

I have devoted many hours over a hot jam pan to trying to reproduce the recipe. I’ve got close, but I’m not sure it’s quite right yet. I think I’ll need to make a few more batches to be sure. Or maybe a lot more batches…

Ingredients:
* 1.5 kg of sugar (I normally buy a 1kg bag of standard granulated and make the amount up with some variety of golden/brown) * 2 x 410g tin of Evaporated Milk* 50g butter * Vanilla flavouring to taste.
Equipment:
* Large pan, at least 5 litres* Jam-maker’s thermometer* Rectangular baking tray* Cooling rack* Palette knife

Take a big pan and clip a jam thermometer to the side. Tip in the sugar and evaporated milk and heat under a low-ish heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn the heat up to medium, stir intermittently until it starts boiling. Then let it boil for around half an hour, stirring continuously to stop it catching.

It will stay at around 110-114 degrees C for what feels like for ever, but then, just as you’re about to give up and turn the heat up, enough water will boil off and the temperature will start to rise quickly. Usually in under a minute it will have reached 118-120 degrees C (‘soft ball’). At this point, turn the heat off and stop stirring. Add the butter and vanilla flavouring, and leave it for around five minutes.

Then take a wooden spoon and beat it continuously for around ten minutes, until it starts to thicken and become less glossy. This is a tricky one to judge until you’ve done it a few times, but if you take a sample with a teaspoon and let it cool for a few seconds, it should stop having the sticky consistency of hot toffee, and start to crystallise into fudge, albeit rather soft fudge.

At this point, you can tip the fudge out onto a buttered baking tray, and then scrape out the pan with a spoon as a reward for all that beating.

Let the fudge cool for… well, around half an hour, but until it’s solid enough to mark permanently, and then take a palette knife and divide it into squares. It may not stay divided, but there should be enough of a break for it to be cuttable later. Otherwise there’s a danger that you’ll get a single block of fudge that really doesn’t want to break evenly and you have to take a hammer to.

After another hour or two, transfer the individual blocks of fudge to a cooling rack.
David M