Steno Pad Recipes: Buttermilk Fudge

June 25th, 2013

A vintage recipe for Buttermilk Fudge

My mother-in-law, Millie, raised her family on classic Southern cooking. When she died in 1998, I inherited her wedding dress, her cast iron skillet and a steno pad of recipes my husband grew up with. Some of these have become our own children’s favorites. Others, I’ve never gotten around to making, so I’ve decided to blog my way through them all, building a digital record of her recipe pad. A printable recipe link can be found at the bottom of this post, with her ingredients and directions transcribed exactly as written. My adaptations are in brackets. Feel free to repin, test, tweak, and share. Millie would be pleased. 

First up: Buttermilk Fudge.

 Buttermilk was not a familiar item in the refrigerator of my northeastern childhood, but it’s a staple in southern kitchens. My husband remembers his parents drinking it cold in the glass, to which I say, bleah, but I guess it’s no weirder than drinking kombucha. I love the fluffiness it gives to pancakes and the tang it lends to mashed potatoes, so I was curious to learn what it could bring to fudge.

In this recipe, a teaspoon of baking soda is mixed with the buttermilk to make a frothy mixture. This piqued my curiosity right away, since leavening is not typically a factor in fudge, and because my very favorite Canadian sweet is sponge toffee, which uses baking soda to create its airy structure. 

Lots of us are familiar with “easy” fudge recipes that use sweetened condensed milk, but old-fashioned fudge recipes can be intimidating. Who has the patience or expertise to test drops of molten sugar in ice water, looking for the magic “soft ball” to appear? Is it cooking, or is it alchemy? I dig mystery, but for candy making, I put my faith in science. Behold the candy thermometer. 

I started out with a 2 quart saucepan, but quickly (and in the nick of time) realized that the batch would increase dramatically in volume as it boiled. So I poured it into my dutch oven, and let it cook on medium heat to a precise, scientifically proven 240 degrees F.  No balls required. 

When I saw this recipe, I was picturing a pale blonde fudge, but after a few minutes of cooking, realized I was making caramel. Because that’s what boiling sugar and milk together does, duh.

I freaking love science.

By the time the thermometer said we were done, the mixture was a dark, glossy brown. Millie’s recipe said to let it cool have before beating. I wasn’t sure what she meant by “cool,” so I asked Chef Google. This kitchen science article suggests 110 degrees F. Mine may have been a little warmer. Also, I got the order of things mixed up here, and added the nuts before beating the mixture. “Nuts” generally means pecans in southern cooking, but all I had were slivered almonds. And I only had one cup, but two seemed over the top anyway.

Here’s another reason old-fashioned fudge making may be a dying craft: it takes a lot of beating to take the mixture from glossy and smooth to opaque and stiff.

But all that work cancels out the calories, right? Which are only 1,000 per bite. By the way, using this recipe indemnifies and holds me and all Millie’s heirs harmless against claims arising from your sugar coma. 

I let the fudge set overnight, and this morning it was firm enough to slice, but it set up softer and creamier than old-fashioned fudge I’ve made before. Chef Google suggests that this is the nature of buttermilk fudge. Or it may have to do with our sultry summer weather. It seemed like I’d heard something about fudge not setting up well on humid days, and sure enough, science backs this up.

Science is delicious, y’all.

Either way, this one’s a keeper. If you make it, let me know how it comes out, especially if you live in the desert.


Steno Pad Buttermilk Fudge
  1. 2 T white Karo (light corn syrup)
  2. 2 c sugar
  3. 1 c buttermilk
  4. 1 t baking soda
  5. 2 T butter
  6. 1 t vanilla
  7. 2 c nuts (1 c slivered almonds)
  1. Dissolve soda in buttermilk, mix Karo and sugar; then add buttermilk and soda and boil to soft ball stage (240 degrees F on candy thermometer). Add butter and vanilla. Allow to cool (to 110 degrees F), beat until creamy; add nuts and pour in buttered pan (8 X 8, lined with foil).
  2. (Allow to set two hours, or until firm)
Adapted from Millie's Steno Pad
Planting Dandelions

3 Responses to “Steno Pad Recipes: Buttermilk Fudge”

  1. marilee pittman says:

    Sounds heavenly. I haven’t had fudge since Mom used to send us her yummy peanut butter fudge.

  2. VB says:

    Yummm—this looks delicious! Reminds me of my mother’s buttermilk pralines –similar recipe and YES, using pecans! I have made penuche – a brown sugar fudge that is so delicious and it does not work on a humid day! Do they have pecans in Canada? I have my great-grandmother’s recipe for buttermilk pie –a type of custard pie–haven’t tried it yet, but I will this summer!

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