As you might have gathered from my Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge post, I went on a bit of a fudge kick during the holidays. I made about a dozen batches of fudge and had the time of my life. 🙂 All but two batches were the old-fashioned kind that rely on sugar, not corn syrup or marshmallow creme, for structure. I find fudge-making deeply relaxing, almost meditative. Making so many batches in a short period also allowed me to hone my candy-making skills; I got very good at beating the fudge for just the right amount of time.
I started to tire of making chocolate fudge so many times, so I searched for alternate old-fashioned fudge recipes and found this one for buttermilk fudge. Apparently this recipe is really old, having been in vogue in the 1930s and 1940s. (The recipe I use is dated 1942.) I had never heard of buttermilk fudge; I doubt many people make it much anymore. I was dying of curiosity to try it out, especially as it contains baking soda. What is up with that? I know that baking soda reacts with acids, and that it thus reacts with buttermilk, but I’m at a loss as to how it fits in with fudge. I am content for this to remain a mystery. 😉 I found a newer version of this recipe that uses 1 TBS corn syrup, a completely unnecessary addition. I did not use this, as I wanted to see what the old-fashioned buttermilk fudge tastes like unadulterated.
The buttermilk fudge is a touch more temperamental than the chocolate fudge, as it is easier to overbeat the buttermilk fudge, but it is phenomenal and worth the extra care taken during the beating stage. The finished fudge tastes like rich butterscotch, due to the caramelized milk solids, and melts in your mouth; I dare say the texture of this fudge is superior to that of the chocolate fudge. I definitely prefer this buttermilk fudge to the chocolate fudge (unless the chocolate fudge has been graced with Frangelico liqueur, which is my Kryptonite).
The source I use for this recipe is very barebones in its description of what to do; for the beating stage, it just says to “beat until creamy.” The Spruce, which features this recipe with corn syrup added, has some great tips for how to make this fudge and how to make old-fashioned fudge in general, including what to look out for when beating fudge.
Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge
Yield: About 16 pieces, depending on how large your pan is and how large you slice the pieces
2 – 3 TBS softened unsalted butter, for coating sides of pan
1 c. buttermilk
4 TBS unsalted butter (up to 1 stick will work, though I haven’t tried a full stick), cut into 4 pieces
2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. salt (Kosher is fine); more salt yields a more complex flavour
1 tsp. vanilla, optional (did not use)
1 c. chopped nuts, optional (did not use)
Line an 8×8″ pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. (This size pan will yield fudge that is about 1/2″ thick. Using a smaller pan will yield thicker fudge.)
Coat inside of a 5 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with the softened butter. (This fudge nearly triples in volume during the cooking process, so don’t try and make this in a smaller pot!) Attach a candy thermometer. Place buttermilk, 4 TBS butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt in pan.
Heat over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar and butter dissolve. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fudge reaches 237°F or 238°F. (One recipe specified cooking until the fudge reaches 240°F, but I found this creates a much harder and crumblier fudge.) The mixture will slowly turn golden-brown in colour, a result of the milk solids caramelizing along with the sugar. This takes around 20 – 30 minutes.
Once desired temperature is reached, remove fudge from heat and pour vanilla extract and chopped nuts on top, if using; do not stir. Allow fudge to cool until it reaches approximately 150°F, about 10 – 15 minutes.*
When fudge reaches 150°F, remove candy thermometer and beat fudge with a wooden spoon until it thickens and just starts to lose its sheen, turning matte in colour in spots. Don’t beat until all the fudge loses its sheen; when a few spots have started turning matte in colour, pour fudge immediately into prepared pan and smooth top as well as you can. (If you beat until the entirety of the mixture has lost its gloss, the fudge will be impossible to spread inside pan.) You may need to press fudge with spoon to fit neatly in pan.
If fudge starts to stiffen and becomes hard to work with, return fudge to pan over low heat and stir until some of the sugar melts; incorporate with the rest of the mixture and transfer fudge to pan. (I have not tried this, but apparently it works.) You can also try quickly stirring in a spoonful of water, and stir the fudge over med-low heat until the fudge loosens up, then scrape it into the pan. I have tried this, and it works, thank goodness!
Let fudge sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Remove from pan, using foil as handles, and cut into squares.
Store Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
*I tried beating fudge immediately after taking it off the heat, but this yielded a very crumbly result. It was still good, but not very cohesive. Waiting until fudge reaches 150°F makes for a creamier fudge.
Source: Slightly adapted from Recipes Wiki