Oh, Fudge!

If you’ve ever wondered how long fudge can stay in the freezer, I have the answer.

Not sixteen months.

Have you ever seen those giant teeth at the dentist’s office?  You know the ones that are about a foot tall, which open to a cross section of the different parts of a tooth? Well, it’s a life-size model of my sweet tooth.

When it comes to chocolate fudge, there are two different types.  There’s creamy fudge; the kind with marshmallow cream—quick and easy.

Then there’s traditional, classic fudge cooked in a pot on the stove until it reaches a very specific temperature.  Then it’s beaten vigorously.  It can go wrong much easier than right. At the state fair, All-American Fudge makes a stellar example.  It’s better than any old-school version I could make, so I let them do it.  Every year I buy two pounds, bring it home, triple-wrap and freeze it.  I then ration it like it’s the very last pizza at a Super Bowl party.

Well, last year I rationed it too well, and when the fair rolled around, I had about a pound left, so I didn’t buy any more.  Thus, sixteen-month-old awful fudge that broke my heart and left me without fair fudge for Eight.More.Months.But.

There are two fudges of the easy, marshmallow cream variety that are close to my heart.

The first is a PB&J fudge.  I shared my recipe with Lisa Prince, who along with Brian Shrader does a segment every Friday on WRAL’s noon news, called Local Dish.  This was last Friday’s dish.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Fudgepb&j fudge1 7-ounce jar marshmallow cream

1 11-ounce package white chocolate chips

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup crunchy peanut butter

¾ cup butter

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¾ cup jelly, jam, or preserves of your choice

Line 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, add marshmallow cream, white chocolate chips and peanut butters. Set aside.In large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, salt, and whipping cream. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 full minutes.

Pour boiling mixture over ingredients in mixing bowl. Using electric mixer, beat for 1-2 minutes, until completely smooth and creamy.pb&j swirlPour half of mixture into baking dish. Drop spoonsful of jam. Using a knife, lightly swirl into the fudge. Top with remaining fudge and dollops of the rest of the preserves. Gently swirl again with knife, just until marbled.Refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight, until set. Cut into bites. Store in airtight container in refrigerator up to a week.

The other fudge is a long-time favorite; chocolate peanut butter.  It’s easy and tastes so darn good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudgechoc pb fudge3 cups sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa

1 tablespoon butter

¾ cup milk

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup marshmallow crème

*When measuring peanut butter and marshmallow cream, spray measuring cup and spatula with cooking spray to facilitate removal from cup.

Mix together first 4 ingredients in saucepan. Bring to rolling boil. Boil exactly 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add marshmallow creme and peanut butter. Stir until melted then pour into buttered 8X8 pan. Let cool.The secret to this is to boil exactly 3 minutes. Use a timer. I’m not joking.

I’m sad and disappointed about my fair fudge.

But.

When I get my next fudge stash, I can’t bear to get less than two pounds, and I know it doesn’t last forever in the freezer.  So, like it or not, to avoid wasting food, I’ll be forced to eat more fudge more often. What a bummer.

Thanks for your time.

Find your thrill

My mother loves them.anna tedThe Kid likes them about as much as Anna Wintour loves polyester sweat pants, and Ted Nugent loves gun control.

Me?  I take after my mom; I love blueberries.

Nine years ago I planted three blueberry bushes in my backyard.  Two of them quickly went to the big garden center in the sky.  But for some reason, no matter how much benign neglect I visited upon it, one lived.

It took five or six years, but that bush finally started producing berries at an average of fourteen per season.  Once I see them begin to develop and ripen, I’d watch them like they were a pregnant giraffe.  But somebody else was watching as well.

Did you know that birds have very few taste buds?  And did you know that birds could care less if blueberries are fully ripe?  It’s true; they locate food by scent and touch.

And did you know that off the bush, blueberries won’t ripen, but rot?

So every year is a race against time and sunshine.  Which will come first?  Ripeness and harvest?  Or larcenous, be-winged, no-tasting, butt heads feasting off my labor?Out of maybe 75 berries in six years, I’ve harvested about twelve.  I stand next to the shrub, eating a paltry few with one hand, and shaking my fist at the beaked bandits with the other.

Last summer I decided to get serious about my blueberries.  I trimmed the bush and fertilized it.  Then I planted three more.  The added plants would increase the rate and success of pollination.

So now it’s May, and I have my veteran bush and the single survivor of the great blueberry planting of 2016.  But this year my original shrub has at least two or three hundred little green berries that will hopefully turn into a successful harvest and subsequent muffins, and jam, pancakes, and ketchup.Yup, you read that right; ketchup.

I’ve always loved Dairy Queen’s peanut buster parfait.  In fact, in high school, I once talked a friend into driving me from Elizabeth City to Nags Head one night just to procure one.  And this was before the new highway was built. Of course, the undeniable compulsion may have partly stemmed from ingesting copious amounts of Foster’s lager (for me, copious amounts are 8-12 ounces—I’ve never been much of a drinker).

But the point is, I love salty/sweet combos.

And, as odd as blueberry ketchup may sound, it’s actually really good, and extremely versatile.Add some bacon, and it makes a delicious and different PBJ.  Use it in a vinaigrette, marinade, or barbecue sauce.  Replace cranberry sauce with blueberry ketchup in that post-Thanksgiving sandwich.  Serve it on cornbread, or stir it into a bowl of chili.   The intense flavor of blueberries and spice is the perfect foil for vodka or gin in a martini.Blueberry ketchup would be a novel addition to the condiments at your next cook out.  Imagine the blue goo on a cheeseburger made with Swiss or pepper jack cheese.

Lisa Prince works for the North Carolina Agriculture Department, and hosts the PBS shows, Flavor NC and From the Vineyard.  She also appears Fridays on WRAL’s noon news.  With kitchen buddy Brian Shrader, she cooks seasonal recipes.

Brian and Lisa

Brian & Lisa

May is blueberry month.

This Friday (May 26th), they’ll be cooking my blueberry ketchup recipe.

In case you can’t tune in, I’ve got the recipe here for you.  I’m guessing I’ll have to miss it, because I’ll be in the back yard with my eyes on the sky and my hand on a slingshot.  Or, possibly I’ll be out there dressed as a scarecrow.Thanks for your time.

Blueberry Ketchup

Ingredientsblueberry ketchup2 ½ cups fresh blueberries

1 medium shallot

1 ¼ cups sugar

½ cup red-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients into large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries have mostly broken down and sauce has thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Spoon into a large bowl and refrigerate until chilled and thickened, about 4 hours.

Local Dishing

Lisa Prince works for the state department of Agriculture.  For the past ten years, she’s done a weekly cooking segment for WRAL; Local Dish.  She also has two shows on PBS; Flavor NC, which started in 2011, and the newly debuted From The Vineyard.

Although she was very familiar with the procedure and format of Local Dish, shooting a full television show was unfamiliar territory.  There’s a shot called a “stand up”, where the talent (that would be Lisa) speaks directly to the camera.  She told me about her first time.When they got ready to do the shot, Lisa stood still and silent waiting for the cue card boy.  Large, in-studio productions have many on staff, including those handy cue card boys.  Pilots of regional PBS shows shot on location though, not so much.

The director waited, and then asked, “Did you not know you had to memorize this?”

Lisa said, “No.  But I do now.  Give me ten minutes.”  She walked around while feverishly memorizing.  But ten minutes later she did her first stand up, and five years later she’s still traveling the state, and entertaining food curious North Carolinians.Last week we met for a food chat at La Farm, in Cary.  She recruited me to judge some food contests at the State Fair, but we’ve never had a chance to sit and talk.

Lisa was born and raised in Fuquay-Varina.  She’s known her husband since preschool.  But they didn’t start dating until high school.  They have a nineteen-year-old son, currently at NCSU.

I asked her about her favorite restaurant.  Here’s her answer, in her own words.

“The Angus Barn for the restaurant I have enjoyed going to since I was a little girl. The big red barn on the hill where the service is so amazing and special occasions are celebrated.But for a favorite that is closer to home: that would be Little Hen in Holly Springs. They are a locally sourced farm to table restaurant. The menu changes seasonally and is always filled with delicious surprises. My husband and I love going there often.”

I asked Lisa the menu for her birthday dinners; it was some type of beef, and a variety of vegetables from the State Farmers Market.

But always, always on the menu would be lace cornbread.  Here’s her family recipe.

Betsy’s Lace Cornbreadlace-cornbread1 cup House Autry White Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix

2 cups water

3/4 cup canola oil

In a 10 inch skillet or pan, heat oil on medium setting.  Mix cornmeal mix and water together, stirring well.  The mixture will be thin.  Drop in heated oil by the Tablespoon.  Cook about two minutes on one side and then turn over until golden.  Place on a paper towel to drain.  Serve warm with butter.  Makes approximately 24 to 30 piecesPersonal note from Lisa:  This cornbread recipe has been in my family for generations.  My grandmother (Mama) could fry up the best lace cornbread and my parents have mastered it pretty well.  Now, I’m the next generation and I have finally gotten it down.  This does take some practice and patience but it is worth it.  It took me 3 batches before I got it right!

When you see somebody on TV, you never know who they really are.

But with Lisa Prince what you see is what you get.  She’s smart, funny, and enthusiastic about all things grown and eaten in NC.  And she’s very kind and very generous to a nosy but grateful food writer.Thanks for your time.