Our Mother's Vanilla Christmas Fudge . . .

We happen to love sugar.
    As the saying goes, and certainly in our generation was applicable, 'We were raised on sugar!"
    We always had choices of dessert after lunch and dinner. The times were few that a pan of brownies were not sitting awaiting the youthful and ever active appetite of someone, anyone, passing the ktchen counter. Or a plate of cookies or donuts. or pie. Our Mother's apple pie
    Our love affair with sugar became intensified around the first of December each year as our mother went on the annual rummaging campaign lookng for "that recipe for Dream Squares" or "my Divinity fudge recipe".  FUDGE!!!!!

This signaled a baking spree that could last weeks, and opportunities to taste not so common choices of her sugar laced specialties.
    Lilac, as we affectionately identified our Mother, approached baking quite differently at Christmas. At this time of year her kitchen skills would quietly move into that heirarchy of kitchen perfection seen on only two other occassions. Preparing food for an event hosted by the Catholic Women's League or preparing "funeral sandwiches". She did a lot of both.
    Because, you see, our Mother could and would, on any other occasion, prepare any dessert by using only hand measurements, her memory, battered pans and tins, and only the second stove we ever knew to be in our home.
    Routine would be the correct description. Actually, the only description.
    She would, in the midst of a visit to see her and catch up on family news over a cup of tea, push back from the table and say, "Don't mind me. I have to get an apple pie ready for supper. Aime and your father are playing checkers tonight and she loves apple pie!"
    Dishes would be pushed away, a spot on the table cleared because she was making it right beside that spot where your elbow was resting, and within minutes, among the clouds of flour dust, flying peel and that perfectly combined smell of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, an apple pie would magically appear. No reference to anything written, just a routine for Lilac.
    On would go the oven, 425º for 12 minutes, 350º for the next 45 minutes. She would return to her chair at the table, wiping the area with a dish towel that dumped most of the scrapings on the floor, retrieve her cup of tea and continue talking. She judged doneness by smell.
    Now come Christmas time there were no apple pies. This was a time for cookies and squares, and pork pies, and Christmas cake and fudge. Wonderful fudge, smooth and creamy, with walnuts if they were on the pantry shelf. Vanilla, chocolate and divinity.
    Beaitifully created squares and balls of perfectly creamy, flavored sugar which we ate by the pound(s).
    There were times Lilac made us fudge without an occassion. She would cook the sugar and margarine combinations, most times without a candy theremometer, and then place a large piece of waxed paper right on the kitchen table and pour the near boiling contents of the pot out slowly to create a thickness that once cooled could be carved into squares. And we carved them alright. Into large squares!
    The fudge recipe used in our home and the one we are posting here are extremely similar. We do have versions of our Mother's original recipe, hand written, no two the same, with details, like batteries, NOT INCLUDED. That exacting part of Lilac's routine was, for some, not hereditary, and particularly in my case. But in the case of my six sisters, they can produce memories of Lilac's fudge. Without reference recipes. Or candy theremometers1




1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons margarine (4 tablespoons if you are making the chocolate fudge)
3/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (only for the chocolate fudge version)


Grease an 8″ X 8″ dish and set aside (9″ x 9″ works as well, it just makes thinner squares).
Have a medium bowl ready with 1 teaspoon vanilla already added.
Into a medium, heavy-bottom pot add brown and white sugars, margarine, whipping cream (and chocolate, if making chocolate fudge).
Heat over high and stir to combine. Let boil until a candy thermometer (or digital thermometer) reads 240 F. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes and in candy-making terms means you have reached “soft ball” stage.
Pour the hot mixture into medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix on medium-high speed (careful not to splatter as this is extremely hot) for about 1 to 2 minutes until the thin splatter on the side of the bowl starts to crystallize and gets dense when you wipe it with your finger. It will be “fudge-like.”
Pour the mixture into the 8″ X 8″ dish and allow to cool before slicing.