Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wartime economy fudge

No salt in this recipe, I know, but it is the best version I have ever encountered with a flavour that hits your tastebuds like no other. I have heard others say it's more "tablet" than "fudge" but I am not convinced.

The recipe, taken from my book (with the timings inserted by me while making it), then its story:

1 lb granulated sugar
1 1/2 oz marge
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (I prefer extract)
5 fl oz evaporated milk
5 fl oz cold water

Mix sugar, milk and water. Heat gently stirring with wooden spoon until sugar melts (5 minutes?). Add marge (cut into small pieces). Bring to rapid boil (10 mins). Stir all time. Wipe down sides of pan (don't let residue stick). Boil until soft ball stage (10 mins). Moment comes much sooner than you'd think! Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Cool for 5 mins. Using wooden spoon, beat it, stirring frantically until changes colour and looks creamy (10 mins), pour into greased mould (lined with foil).

I recommend AGAINST chocolate versions, rum 'n' raisin versions or whatever. Gilding the lily.

Mum's commentary on the recipe in my book:

"This came from a book in Bedworth Library. During World War II my mother swapped tea and other rations for the ingreedience and made something similar."

Bedworth Library was our local library in the first house where I ever lived, in Windmill Road, Exhall. I had always assumed the recipe my mother had recorded in her book - from which this is copied - was the very same that her mother had used, recorded in copperplate handwriting on faded yellow paper. Not so, it would seem. Mum would make this and then bag it for Christmas presents. Once she had made some shortly before halloween and some trick-or-treaters came round. She presented each of them with a piece and they went away not looking altogether impressed. I like to think that they would have changed their minds on tasting.

There was another occasion when, as her contribution to my nursery school's Christmas sale, she presented me with a polystyrene cup of fudge. Someone else had been more ambitious in terms of quantity and variety and had donated several bags of, if I remember correctly, rum and raisin flavoured fudge. My mother's contribution was rather lost in the array. Whether as a gesture of annoyance or otherwise, another boy and I stole some of the fudge from its table and were caught. Our punishment was to miss the showing of the school cine film. But later Justice relented and we were allowed in to see the second showing. I remember looking guiltily at the headmistress, Mrs Hartley, as we sat down in the darkened room. But that was the end of the incident.

The closest I have ever got to finding my mother's fudge on sale commercially was in a shop, now closed, in Canterbury. It had been recommended by my rather splendid landlady, Maureen de Sausmarez. I once brought some home. Having tried a bit, my mother claimed it was not of the best but then undermined her argument, repeatedly signalling she wanted more by mimicking a bird making high-pitched shrieks. Until the bag was empty.

A sad story on which to end. My grandmother - referred to in my mother's commentary above - had Alzheimer's Disease and in its early stages, she gave my brother and I a few coins with which to buy "Henley fudge" which, she told us, could be found in the shop at the bottom of her road. It may have existed decades before but the only fudge my brother and I could find was Cadbury's ("a finger of fudge is just enough...") and that is what we ended up buying, supplementing the money we'd been given with our own.

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