My mom is a great cook. She can whip up a big country breakfast with ease, it is impossible to beat her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and her eight layer chocolate cake boasts homemade icing that somehow never has any lumps and is to die for. She never really measures anything as she goes, making it nearly impossible for someone else to recreate. She has just been using the same spoons and cups for so long that she knows how to do it all by memory. Of course, despite this lack of precise measurements, everything always turns out perfectly. Amongst all of her mouth watering dishes and desserts, there are two stand-outs that everyone always requests; her brownies and her peanut butter fudge. I’ll cover the brownies in a later post. Today, it’s all about the fudge.
I grew up watching my mom make peanut butter fudge at least once a month, usually more. Whether it’s a church potluck, a family reunion, or Sunday dinner, all occasions call for peanut butter fudge and she sometimes ends up making three or four batches at a time. At some point, she was finally pinned down for her exact recipe and tried to measure everything accurately so that she could pass it along. Even though I have watched her make this fudge hundreds of times, it took many failed attempts to be able to make it myself. This is my best rendition, along with a few photos and tips.
Below is what you will need. While I usually don’t care about the brands of the ingredients I am using while baking, it really does make a difference with this recipe. I’ve tried using different brands of sugar, for example, and it just never turns out right. Feel free to experiment, but these are the brands my mom uses and they work for me, too. Also, there is something about the pot and the spoon here. It really takes a heavy pot to get the temperature and timing of the fudge just right. We use a heavy pressure cooker with a wooden spoon. Again, I’ve tried using different pots, and I can never get the temperature of the fudge just right with anything else
- 4 cups Domino sugar
- 1 can Carnation evaporated milk
- 1 stick margarine (1/2 cup)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups JIF creamy peanut butter
- Cold water
- 9×13 inch cake pan
- Heavy pot
- Wooden spoon
Getting this fudge to turn out just right is all about the temperature. If you let it stay on the heat for just a minute too long or if you aren’t constantly stirring, it can get too hard and just crumble once it cools. On the other hand, if you take it off of the heat too soon, it won’t set properly and will be too gooey. For this reason, I highly suggest getting everything completely ready before turning the heat on.
First, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and margarine in the pot and set it on the stove. Do not turn the heat on yet. Beside of the pot, within easy reach, place a cup of very cold water. This is what you are going to use to test the fudge to ensure that it is ready. More on that in just a bit.
Also, go ahead and measure out your peanut butter and vanilla in a separate bowl. The recipe calls for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter (mom just uses a big spoon to scoop it out of the jar and dump it into the pot without measuring). I have tested it to decide which is best when measuring exactly and for my taste, I prefer to stick closer to 1 cup of peanut butter, but this is all about personal taste. Beside the peanut butter, place a trivet or potholder to protect your counter top when you pull the pot off of the stove. Spray a 9×13 inch cake pan with Pam and set it nearby as well.
You are now ready to start. Turn the heat up to high and mix together the sugar, cream, and margarine, stirring consistently with the wooden spoon. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Do not stop stirring. You now want to cook the mixture until it reaches “hard ball stage”. This is where that cup of water comes in. You know the fudge is ready to be removed from the heat when you can drop a tiny drop of the fudge from the spoon into the water and it forms a ball. This usually takes me about nine minutes from the time I turn the heat down to medium. I usually start testing it around the 7 1/2 minute mark and drop in a bit every 30 seconds or so until I see that it’s done. If it is not ready, the drop of fudge will just kind of unravel when it hits the water. If it is ready, it will form into a little ball in the bottom of the cup.
As soon as you see that the fudge has reached this stage, remove it immediately from the heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla. Be VERY careful as the mixture is nuclear hot and can splash back on you as you add the peanut butter. Stir quickly and pour into the sprayed pan. The trick here is to combine the ingredients as quickly as possible. You want to make sure that everything is mixed well, but as soon as you see that there are no more lumps or swirls of peanut butter, pour it into the pan. You do not want the fudge to start setting in the pot before you pour it out. Once you’ve poured the fudge into the pan, give it a quick shake to allow the fudge to settle evenly throughout the pan.
Thanks to my mom for this fabulous recipe! I will be eagerly awaiting some of her peanut butter fudge when we visit for Easter. Hint, hint! 😉