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Handmade fudge from the heart of Kent

If the fudge doesn't have the cow you won't be O'er the Moon

Sweet History

The History of Fudge
The History of Turkish Delight
The History of Chocolate

As with the history of many other sweets the exact origin of fudge is still not fully known. What we can be sure of however is that France, the birthplace of confectionery, was not responsible. Most references point to the United States in the last century. For example Harmsworth’s Household Encyclopedia, published in London in 1920, provides the first definitive proof of the existence of fudge with the following content: ‘A sweetmeat that hails from America, but is now popular in other countries also. It is made from white or brown sugar, milk, cream, or condensed milk and butter. It can be flavoured with chocolate, coffee and vanilla essence. Margarine can be used instead of butter but the toffee does not set so well, nor is the taste quite so rich or good.’    

The invention date of fudge is similarly elusive but by the process of elimination authoritative housekeeping books right up until the end of the 19th century contained no mention of fudge. At Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York a student, Miss E Hartridge, unwittingly put fudge on the worldwide confectionery map. A student at the college from 1892 she later wrote to her former history professor in December 1921 suggesting a visit so the two could make caramels. In her letter she explained: ‘Fudge, as I first knew it, was first made in Baltimore by cousin of a school mate of mine. It was sold in 1886 in a grocery store at 279 William Street for 40¢ a pound.’

But why the name ‘fudge’? The only conclusion that all parties agree to is that fudge came about as a result of a happy accident, whereby it was discovered serendipitously when a batch of caramel was wrongly made. By the early part of the 20th century dictionaries quoted the noun fudge as a nonsensical story, humbug or rubbish. As language evolved its role as a verb became more crystallised with such uses as to fabricate, to contrive in a blundering manner and to bungle. Even today it still remains as an expletive, although by today’s standards a pretty inoffensive one.

From the turn of the century fudge recipes multiplied as its popularity grew. New cooking equipment created different techniques, while new ingredients and flavourings added many new dimensions.

The Science of how Fudge is made

The physics and chemistry involved in cooking a batch of fudge is very complex for such an apparently simple end product. Recipes usually involve combining and boiling a combination of cream, milk, condensed milk or evaporated milk along with butter and sugar until the temperature reaches 116oC. In confectionery circles this temperature is known as the soft-ball stage – primarily because when a small teaspoon of the mixture is dropped into cold water and subsequently rolled between the thumb and index finger it quickly creates a soft-ball.

The mixture is then left for some time until the temperature at the centre of the syrup drops down to 43.5oC. It is then stirred with a wooden spoon to initiate the crystallization process. The aim is for this process to happen all at once where very small micro-crystals of sugar are created rather than larger crystals, such as those which make up caster sugar, which would result in very grainy fudge.

Sugar dissolves far more readily in hot liquids than cold. Generally milk boils at 100oC but by adding sugar the boiling point of the mixture raises to 116 oC. At this temperature no more sugar will dissolve in the mixture and it is said to be a supersaturated solution. Once the heat source is taken away the syrup cools and hopefully if no sugar crystals are present the mixture will remain a liquid until it drops down to the temperature for beating. If just one sugar crystal remains inside the pan it may drop into the solution and act has the template for all the other crystals to form a around. As the supersaturated solution cools down the tendency for it to crystallize become stronger and stronger. To counteract this recipes have been developed whereby different sugar types are combined.

The presence of more than one sugar, such as glucose and fructose, helps to inhibit the crystallization process and ensures crystallization only takes place at the very end of the process.
The micro-crystals that end up being created are responsible for the melt-in-the mouth and creamy texture that all good fudges have.

Continue to The History of Turkish Delight