What we started with

What we started with

My mother always did plates of Christmas cookies as presents for neighbors; she had this down to a science the last couple of years. She would bake up a storm, about a dozen different kinds of cookies, and the last couple of years they were stashed as soon as they cooled in the freezer, until the day when Mom would assemble the plates, and whoever was handy would go around and deliver them. I think the only year that Mom skipped lately was in 2003, the year that the house burned to the ground in the Paradise Mountain fire. The twenty pounds of butter Mom had stashed in the freezer against the days of wholesale baking melted and and the butterfat grease burned for about a week after the rest of the fire was put out, or so Mom insisted later.

I did cookies myself for a good few years – little gift bags for fellow dorm residents, and a gargantuan box for the workplace – but eventually became rather bored of cookie-baking. Likely our neighbors were equally bored with it, because – well, everyone does cookies. I think that most of them have mercifully forgotten the gingerbread drop cookies from a good few years ago – those what were made from an uncharacteristically disastrous  Joy of Cooking recipe which looked (and likely tasted) like ginger-flavored dog turds. We may have been forgiven this disaster thanks to last year’s offering: another recipe for lemon-pecan-coconut bars, but still … one can only do cookies for so many years.Peppermint Fudge Completed

So, a couple of years ago, Blondie and I decided to change it up. We did home-made cheese and bread, herbal vinegars and oils – all kinds of good edible things, packaged in pretty tins from the Dollar Store, or in little paper bags with a gingham-checked napkin on top. This year, Blondie decided that we should do an assortment of home-made fudge. We got this notion from a lovely candy store in Fredericksburg which commits a regular assault on good taste by providing chocolate-coated dill pickles and jalapeno peppers, but also has an amazing variety of made-on-the-premises fudge. So it was my daughter’s brilliant Christmas notion to make fudge for this year’s seasonal affliction of the neighbors. Which we did, the first of this week, after researching a comprehensive collection of fudge recipes on-line, and laying out for white, milk, and semi-sweet cooking/confection chocolate and all the other ingredients at Sams’ Club or at the friendly neighborhood HEB.

Pecan Fudge

Toasted pecan fudge, under contstruction

I swear, we did not skimp on the quality of ingredients; real butter, real cream, quality chocolate all the way. And so we spent two days stirring pans of butter-cream-sugar combinations over low heat, measuring out the additions on the kitchen scale, pouring them into every butter-greased pan in the house, taking up all the available space in the refrigerator (and some in the Coleman cooler, too) for slabs of fudge: straight chocolate drizzled with white chocolate, brown-sugar with pecans, two-colored and liqueur-flavored Brandy Alexander fudge, orange-white-chocolate crème flavored, white chocolate cocoanut and nut, dark chocolate peppermint topped with crushed peppermint-stick-candy, and dark chocolate Christmas-flavored with cranberries and nuts… yes, we gave that candy shop a run for their money, locally. We even doubled some recipes … an unnecessary precaution as it turned out, although it did use up just about every scrap of the ingredients purposeful-bought for this seasonal exercise. And the other thing – a good few packages of seasonal candy-papers; the tins and plates looked really good and almost professional-grade as we packed them. Finished Fudge - Packaged in TinBut we did have a lot, when all was said and done – enough to give a tin to practically every neighbor we have ever had several polite conversations with, and a good-sized platter of assorted fudges to the fire station on O’Connor, plus tins for the mailman and the guy driving the trash collection truck. (Mom always left the trashmen a six-pack with a bow and a Christmas card on it, sitting on top of the cans on the first collection day after Christmas.) For all of that, we still have a large Tupperware container of cut fudge, enough to package in another five or six tins. So far, it has proved enormously popular, and likely we will do it again – but not doubling any of the recipes.

 

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Chocolate covered dill pickles? I’m surprised that hasn’t been served up by the vendors at our State Fair. After all, they serve such delicacies as deep-fat fried Twinkies so this wouldn’t be a stretch. Of course the jalapenos aren’t a stretch at all when you consider mole poblano and all its permutations.

    Your fudge adventure reminds me of a newlywed acquaintance who made a gigantic batch of green popcorn balls to distribute at Christmas. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to her to use CLEAR corn syrup with the green food coloring so everything came out in shades of olive drab and easily mistaken for hedge apples …

  2. Celia

    Giggle … almost as funny as the ginger-flavored dog turds. We were lucky this time around – as all the batches came out looking good and tasting even better, although we have so much that we’ll be giving a box to people we have spoken to maybe five times in the past year.