Desperately Seeking Culture through Salted Caramel Fudge

It’s cultural tradition month at my daughter’s preschool and guess who is at a loss.

Last week we were supposed to bring in a cultural artifact of some sort. Well, my Grandma on my Mom’s side was from Wisconsin, would cheddar cheese with salami in it work? Someone at some point was German but I don’t think I want to claim anything to do with that. I think my great, great Grandpa from my Dad’s side was Greek, but I certainly don’t have a cultural artifact. Nor do I identify with any of those cultures.

“Well, what are we Mom?” My daughter wants to know. It’s not that simple, I tell her. We are a diluted mix of European that gets categorized as boring, culture-less American. To further complicate it we were born and raised in a very culture-rich environment that we can participate in and appreciate but not claim as our own. Even if there were any cultural ties to hold on to, our family has been broken and rebuilt so many times they are long lost now. “Does that make sense?” I ask my 4-year old.

I settled on a postcard my Grandpa sent me while he was visiting Greece…much to my daughter’s disappointment.

This week we are supposed to bring in something musical from our culture, a traditional song or dance or instrument. Again I am at a loss. And again my daughter is disappointed.

She wants to bring in a nose flute or a hula skirt. I understand her envy and desire to have something prideful that threads the past to the present. I feel it every time I watch a movie like My Big Fat Greek Wedding or read a book that themes around assimilation.

When I was in my early 20’s, my Grandma from Wisconsin came to stay with us for the holidays. This was a very special visit as my Grandma didn’t like to travel and she was scared of bugs and hurricanes. (Tornados, however, no biggie!) She normally just sent a big batch of fudge that my mom would keep in the freezer and ration out to us here and there.

I was just getting serious about cooking at this time of my life and I had this daydream about making fudge all day with my Grandma and listening to her stories and maybe learning a bit about our culture. So I called her and asked her if she would teach me to make fudge while she was visiting.

To this she said, “All you do is follow the directions on the box.”

I guess that about sums it up as far as our culture goes.

In a desperate attempt to prove there’s some substance to our traditions, I set out to make Salted Caramel Fudge from scratch with my kids.

Guess what I learned? My Grandma was right.

Caramel Fudge Bites with Black Lava Salt

Ingredients (you will also need a candy thermometer)

For the Caramel

1 cup heavy cream

5 TB butter (I used salted. If you use unsalted increase the salt to 1 t)

1/2 t vanilla

1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise

1/2 t salt

1 1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

For the Fudge (see note)

Black Lava Sea Salt (or any other kind of sea salt)


(Note) Total honesty, making these was a pain in the you know what. I now understand why my grandma used a box fudge kit. I was determined to make these from scratch and not to use a can of sweetened condensed milk or marshmallows. The caramel was fantastic! I would highly recommend it. You could use it as a layer in a cake, as a warm sauce with apples, or you could just eat it as is with salt on it. I’ll never buy caramel sauce from the store again. But the fudge… it was too soft and would never hold up at room temperature in Hawaii. Unless you are a candy making queen, I think condensed milk might be the way to go. So use your own fudge recipe that your Grandma hopefully taught you, even if it is on the side of a can of condensed milk, and just follow this process.

Line a 9×12 baking dish with parchment paper and butter or spray Pam on the paper.

In a small pan bring the heavy cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla bean and salt to a boil then remove from heat.

In a larger pan fitted with a candy thermometer, add the sugar, corn syrup and water. Make sure this pan is big enough to accommodate crazy molten caramel boiling up.

Over medium heat dissolve the sugar stirring occasionally. After the sugar is dissolved bring the mixture to a boil. Do not stir anymore! You can do an occasional pan swirl. Be patient and continue to boil until the sugar turns to a golden color.

Ok, pay attention cause this part could be very dangerous. Tell your kids to get out of the kitchen, mom’s doing a science experiment. You are going to add the cream mixture (with the vanilla bean removed) into the sugar mixture. But very slowly and just a little at a time. It will boil up all cray cray every time you add a little, and you don’t want it to boil over. So go slow and keep stirring. Once you got all the cream in the sugar, continue to stir until the temperature reaches 248. Then pour it straight into the prepared pan and let it cool. You’ll know if it worked by the temptation to lick the spoon and scrape out any remains from the pan. If it did, congratulations! You are a rock star who made caramel!

Next step, make your fudge, however you do it and pour it over the cooled caramel.

Put it in the fridge and let it set for at least 3 hours. Very carefully remove from the pan and invert so the caramel in on top. Peel off the parchment paper and cut into little squares. You can butter or pam you knife to get a cleaner cut. Sprinkle with Black Lava Sea Salt.

Keep in your freezer and ration out little pieces to your family and friends as you see fit. One for you, two for me.

About Maui Flour Child

Aloha, I'm Maui Flour Child. I love cooking for my family & friends using fresh, local ingredients. Live life with aloha in your heart and flour in your hair! -Angela

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