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Friday, March 31, 2023
FairfaxOpinion'Old School' column: Oh, fudge

‘Old School’ column: Oh, fudge

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by CAROL McEWEN, for the Sun Gazette

Winters in southern Indiana were not fun.

The northern crowd had ice skating, ice hockey and plenty of snow for snowmen and snowball fights. But our river-basin climate rarely brought snow and never got cold enough to make strong ice. Mostly we had bleak skies and freezing rain.

In fact, the first time I remember a sizable snow was when I was in fifth grade and school was canceled for the one and only time. As an 11-year-old, the snow was up to my knees, and I was thrilled.


Believe it or not, I actually hiked to school through it and helped my teacher, who was also there, do some light housekeeping in the classroom. I washed the blackboards, clapped erasers together to rid them of chalk dust, and helped her throw out some old files.

Sooo, no ice/snow play, what to do? I was a big fan of making fudge on a cold winter evening (or in the afternoon if I got really desperate).

Keep in mind, this was well before the existence of microwaves, and even before the “new” recipe using marshmallow creme. I cooked it with unsweetened chocolate, plenty of sugar and butter, and stirred it over heat until my arm was ready to fall off.

My first attempts didn’t go so well. On the first try, I had the heat so high that the fudge tasted scorched, which it was. The next batch wasn’t cooked long enough, so it stayed the consistency of taffy ready to be pulled.

Remember the test to see if the sweet stuff was done? I kept a glass of cold water handy to drop in some of the mixture and check my progress. With no candy thermometer, I was looking for the “soft ball” stage.

This usually involved several false starts due to my impatience, but when the ball finally held together, it gave a delicious preview of things to come.

Another clue: the mixture wasn’t supposed to look shiny. As it approached doneness, it took on the look of dark, dried mud.

After I decided it was done, I took it off the fire, added a little vanilla, and then poured it into a square, buttered dish. As soon as it cooled a bit, I could slice it into squares and send my whole family into sugar shock.

Today’s recipes are much easier, faster and, frankly, taste better. But that treat from long ago still holds a special place in this Old School heart.

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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