Sunday, 07 October 2012

Fudging It

Imagine my surprise as I bit into a piece of fudge and found it wasn't fudge at all. Actually, you cannot imagine this because, what I ate and thought was not fudge, is what you'd eat and think is fudge. (By "you" I mean your typical American.) 

Instead of biting into a caramel-like, semi-hard candy with a fine sugary grain that immediately melts in your mouth; I bit into a soft, creamy, smooth candy that reminded me more of frosting than candy. This new-to-me type of fudge also melts in your mouth, but I did not care for it (much to the delight of my husband and children).

So, after a couple of years of not thinking about it, I suddenly really started to wonder about the difference. How did we come to use the same word for different types of candy? Surely the South Africa version is "real" fudge and the Americans did with a perfectly good confection exactly what they did with the English language - they fudged it! There had to be a similarity though, because they look very similar. After a bit of reading on the Internet (and I mean a bit, I am really not into doing a doctor's thesis on this subject!)  here is what I have found out:

  • Apparently fudge was invented in America, so what I know as fudge is indeed not "real" fudge - if you want to get all hung up on it, not that I would.  
  • What I grew up making and eating as a child is also known as "Scottish tablet" or "Swiss Milk tablet". If you want to find out more about the history of this candy read this interesting blog: The Art and Mystery of Food: Scottish Tablet and Russian Toffee.
  • Tablet has a longer history than fudge and evolved from a toffee recipe (as described in the above referenced blog).
  • Fudge, on the other hand, seemed to have come about from literally fudging a batch of caramels according to The
  • The core or original ingredients of tablet is sugar and sour cream boiled together in a specific way. 
  • The core or original ingredients of fudge is sugar and cream boiled together in a specific way. I guess that answers my question as to why they look so similar.
  • Both fudge and tablet's ingredients only have sugar in common with the original versions. 
 Since Americans are familiar with American fudge, I will leave that candy behind now. What follows is my childhood recipe for tablet (from now on referred to as SA fudge). There will be photographs and step by step descriptions of how to make it. 

A small note on the photographs: They are not mine so please visit the blog where I got them from.  I simply cannot make a batch of fudge at this time due to time and diet constraints. Not So Humble Please also read her version of the recipe. Ms. Humble's version is more involved and more suited for those who are very good cooks and like to do stuff without "cheating". My version, makes it easier for people new to this kind of candy and does not require you to have a candy thermometer. You will notice a slight difference in our ingredients too.

South African Fudge:


4 lbs white sugar 
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (Carnation, Eagle Brand or Publix store brand worked well for me)
2 cans of whole milk (use the empty condensed milk can to measure out the milk)
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 lb of butter (or margarine but butter is preferable) 
3 tablespoons of golden syrup. (I used Aunt Jamima's original pancake syrup in the US. In South Africa we use golden syrup that is a by product of cane sugar production. It is thick, sticky, doesn't have corn syrup in it and doesn't pour. Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup is the brand I grew up with. You can buy a pourable version it here and here or the classic version here.)


A large, 8 quart, heavy bottomed pot. 
Long stem wooden spoon. 
Cookie sheet 13" x 16" or thereabouts (the larger the pan, the thinner the fudge will be)
Cooking spray or butter to grease the sheet.


1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and stir until all the sugar is wet.


2. Heat on medium to low heat until all the sugar is melted and you have a smooth, shiny, white mixture in the pot. It should look like this

3. Turn up the heat to medium high to high for 25 - 30 minutes. Stir at all times. The mixture can burn to the bottom if not stirred. At this point the mixture will probably double in size, then slowly darken to a caramel brown as the time passes and finally settling back to the same or a similar size as it was before it started to boil.  Here is what it would look like during the process

a. In the beginning it stays white.
b. Notice the slight browning.

c. Browning some more.

4. At the end of the allocated time the mixture should separate from the side of the pot as you stir it. You will also notice that the candy crystallizes on the side of the pot. 

5. Pour in the vanilla extract and stir until mixed in. This shows what it will look like when you pour in the vanilla.

What it looks like after stirring in the vanilla , just before pouring.
6. Cool for a short time, not too long or it will set in the pot.  (The other blog suggests beating it here vigorously for 10min. I have not tried this before. I am definitely going to try that when I make my next batch and update with my own pictures!)

7. Pour into the greased cookie sheet. 

In the pan ready to be cut
8. Let it cool and cut into squares - make them small squares as this is a very, very, VERY sweet candy!  (The picture on the right is form Another step-by-step, photo-by-photo tutorial).

Notice this fudge is darker than Ms. Humble's. Mine usually comes out this dark.

I hope you enjoy making your own version of the fudge. Remember, this is definitely a moment on the lips and lifetime on the hips type of candy. It is also highly moreish, so store under lock and key. I take no responsibility if you cannot stop eating it. 

If you have any additional information about the topic, especially on the history of both types of candy, want to correct any misinformation, grammar, spelling, cooking terminology or just have a link or a recipe on the topic to share, please do so! I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Die Eerste Begrafnis

Ons ry verby die hek, na die afdak wat deur die wag aangedui is. Afdak A. Soos ons om die draai kom sien ek die rye en rye grafstene. Identiese reghoeke wat uit die grond groei met halfsirkel bokante. Everedig gespasieer. Die rye stene verander van diagonaal tot reguit op en af en weer diagonaal soos die kar verby beweeg, nes rye mielies op die lande doen. Ek roep verbaas  uit: "Dit lyk net soos in die flieks!".  Dis `n militere begrafplaas. Hulle lyk blykbaaar almal dieselfde.

Ons is hier om hulde te bring aan Eddie se oom. Sy ma se broer. Die laaste wagter tussen sy generasie en die dood. Al sy voorouers is nou dood.

Ons is die laastes wat opdaag. Die erewag staan gereed met hulle gewere. Die beueler reg om te blaas. Die kapelaan reg om te praat. Die afdak het twee kerkagtige banke wat uit sement gegiet is. Die veterane wat die erewag opmaak wag geduldig todat ek en my kind aan die familie voorgestel is. Ons neem ons plekke in.

Die diens is vol militere verwyssings. Jim is opgeroep vir `n hoër diens en het aangemeld  by die Hoogste Offisier. Dis baie mooi en baie troostend. Dis nie `n baie kerklike diens nie. Daar word nie psalms en gesange gesing nie. Die gebed is kort en kragit. Net een.

Die kapelaan vra ons om Luca se ore toe te druk. Drie skote uit 4 of 5 gewere, ek kan nie mooi onthou nie. Dan word Taps gespeel op die beuel en ek huil. Dis moeilik om die trane terug te hou. Taps klink soos hartseer families wat oor hulle gevalle jong manne huil. Ek huil liggies maar ek huil vir die hele mensdom en al die geliefdes wat hulle verloor het.

Oom Jim is alreeds veras, so daar is nie `n kis waarop die vlag gedrapeer is soos mens gewoond is om te sien nie. Twee lede van die erewag onvou die driehoekige Amerikaanse vlag met seromonie. Sodra dit oop is, trek hulle dit so stuif dat dit klapper in die lug. Oe, dis mooi. Dis so mooi; ten spyte van my linkse, skeptiese sienings oor oorlog en nationalisme kan ek nie verby die mooi van dit kom nie. Dan vou hulle die weer sierlik op en kniel voor Eddie se niggie om dit vir haar aan te bied. Weereens sukkel ek om trane terug te hou. Weereens is dit vir my `n allesomvatende beeld van verlies.

Nadat die veterane opgeruim het, staan Eddie se niggie op en vertel stories van haar pa. Dis al die lekker stories. Die stories wat ons laat lag. Ek vind ook uit dat Oom Jim die Bronze Star, (die vierde hoogste eer in oorlog), verdien het vir uitstekende diens tydens die Tweede Wêreld Oorlog in Duitsland. Niemand weet regtig vir wat nie, want hy het nie daaroor gepraat nie. Hy het wel baie gepraat van sy "gevriesde voete" (vriesbrand) wat hy daar opgedoen het. (Eddie vermeen dat hy ook die Purple Heart het vir die wonde wat hy opgedoen het).

En terwyl sy die stories vertel, onthou ek my ma se begrafnis en besef dat ons, ons mense laat voortleef deur hulle stoires te vertel.

The Last Funeral

The cremation service was sad in an upbeat way. My culture, the Afrikaner culture, has a way of joking through tragedy. My first instinct after hearing how my mother had died, was to think: Trust you to party to the very end. Mum and her friend had just arrived home after a bit of pensioner's gambling and a Steve Hofmeyr concert when she died of a heart attack, still sitting in the car. A friend of mine, in true Afrikaner spirit, suggested we send Mr. Hofmeyr notice that his concert literally bored my mother to death.

My second instinct was to compile a list of the funny anecdotes she used to tell. I remember hearing them again and again as I was growing up. Same set up, same body, same punchline. I hung on every word no matter how old I was, how many times I've heard it. It was a window into life-before-me.

The service was a combination of the old style of funeral and some new practices I have not encountered before. I felt like a visitor to my own culture and childhood church. This is a result of living outside South Africa and forsaking organized religion. I was looking around me as both an ingrained participant in this ritual and tourist. It was odd.

Traditionally, funerals would be handled in a sombre way. Heavy, stately affairs, it somehow equated to showing respect to the dead.  The dress was Sunday Best, suits and ties for men and no hats inside the church. Women were sentenced to modest dresses only - no open backs, shoulders, low necklines or high hemlines; and definitely no trousers for the women. At my mother's service, everyone was dressed in smart casual with some people actually wearing jeans. Everyone was dressed nicely but not stuffily.

Traditionally, you'd walk in with sad organ music. A heavy sermon of doom and hope will follow. There would be intermittent singing from hymnals where only the chorus part is decipherable. And prayers during which the men would stand and the women would remain seated. (It had always felt to me that there were too many prayers.)  A family member would get up and give thanks to caretakers, undertakers, clergy, those who came from afar... Maybe someone would speak about their loved one, trying to paint a picture of who they were. 

At my mother's service, the reverend did the thank you notes composed by me at the beginning of the service. And then, he suddenly digressed and comically explained how professional the funeral home people were dressed compared to him. In all fairness it was midnight when he was called out. He noted he arrived at the scene sloppily dressed and can't even remember if he wore shoes or slippers, while they were dressed in suits and ties. My sister-in-law leans over and whispers to me: "He wore shoes."

He introduced me to tell my list of anecdotes, my way to try and say: This is who we lost. This is who we're going to miss. But as I approach the front, I cannot resist to quip: "According to Marilise you wore shoes, Reverend." People giggle in that guiltily-relieved way, no need for fake somberness today! I feel safe and happy in my sadness and I tell my mother's stories. I invite people to tell me stories about my mother when we will have refreshments afterwards.  

Then Peter is introduced to sing Amazing Grace.  This was such a gift. A wish of my mother's came true. She would cry every time she heard that song. I once asked her why, thinking I'd get a story about how someone she loved died. I thought it would be about a soldier she had known. Maybe it reminded her of her father (who had died that year). But all I got was: "It's just beautiful."

The reverend takes over, gives a short and sweet sermon, doesn't pray excessively, but we do croon out those hymns.

At this point, traditionally, the pallbearers would take the coffin out to the hearse. The procession goes to the cemetery. The person is interred with some more sermon and prayer. Everyone sprinkles flower petals on the coffin. Their sweet smell always pleasant. And the family members each shovel some dirt on too. This is where I would feel the sadness overcome me time and time again. There at the open grave. 

Another life long wish of mum's was to be cremated ("...because I'd die if I wake up and realize I was buried alive." she used to joke), there was no trip to the cemetery. There would never be a trip there for her.  There were no pallbearers. Everyone congregated outside and listened to the "graveside sermon" looking onto my mother's coffin situated in the hearse (What is that sermon called? I'm sure it has a name). She would be cremated later on. My cousin's husband, who works at the crematorium, said he'd take care of her personally. I am so grateful at the knowledge that she was handled by someone who knew and loved her. 

The last part of mom's service was exactly the way these things have always been: Refreshments served in the church hall, prepared by the sisters of the congregation. It consists of all the traditional pastries, tarts, cakes and little crust-less triangle sandwiches. The same food you'd find at birthdays, weddings, graduations and so on (bar the sandwiches, they are funeral specific).  

And it was here, that Peter, the amazing Amazing Grace singer reminded me of the funny story of how my mother gave me my name. A cousin comes over and retells my mum's favourite story of his 3 year old self cursing after he had fallen of his tricycle. The laughter is great. The reminder of these stories I had forgotten in my frenzy to find them during my grief was greater.

That was the last funeral I attended in South Africa. That was 4 and a half years ago. Just last week, I attended my first service in America. A military funeral that was exactly the way it is portrayed in film and on television. The whole time I was there I kept thinking: Wow, this really happens, they are really that full of ceremony and grace. And I cried when they played Taps on the bugle, even though I did not know my husband's uncle. It was not Amazing Grace, but I suddenly knew why it made my mother cry. Some music just caries the sadness of being human through the air, to your ears and right into your soul.