Old Christmas lists and fudge

Just after Thanksgiving I hauled out the laundry basket I keep in my bedroom closet that holds all the Christmas stuff: curling ribbon and scraps of left-over wrapping paper, candles, the crèche set and spare cards.

This season, in the mess of Christmas trappings I also found a pile of saved Christmas lists from years past, dating back to 2007. What I have been saving them for I have no idea (unless it was to write this Root Cellar column). But it was interesting and a little nostalgic to see the details of my past Christmas shopping.

2007 was the year I bought a watch for my husband, John. I also list Legos for my son, Sam, and apparently “stuffed animals” for my daughter, Lily, who was then five years old. It seems so simple. This was back when a Matchbox car was a coveted gift. After all, now, at 19 years old, my son is in the market for a real car. This list also suggests smoked oysters for our dear friend Jack Niflot, who has since died. I remembered how much he liked those.

A list that my daughter wrote, probably at age seven or eight, names a ZuZu pet as her top gift. Remember those little, cooing toy hamsters that were so popular a few years ago? Duck tape and socks with toes also made the list. 2015 was apparently a big year, with a kitten for my daughter and a camera for my son.

Each year I give my sister a subscription to The New Yorker. The piano teacher gets gingersnaps. It is all written down: the Legos, the fishing lures, the ukulele and the Batman sheet set. Last year I gave hives of bees through Heifer International, one of the many charitable organizations working to end poverty around the world by providing livestock and education to struggling countries.

Each year there seems to be a standard gift. One year we gave everyone amaryllis bulbs. Another year everyone got a rain gauge. One year it was local maple syrup. However, the most enduring present is the gift of homemade fudge. This is the gift that appears year after year on all those old lists. I have mailed out many packages of the stuff through the years. And this year I have already made three batches.

When the kids were little, I used to wait until they were asleep to make the fudge as it is a very hot process and I didn’t want to risk having it spill on them. That, of course, is not a worry anymore, but I still wait until the house is fairly quiet to make it. It is a true tradition. Below is the recipe for you to enjoy. Happy Holidays!

Chocolate fudge

(This recipe was originally found on the label of the Jet-Puffed marshmallow fluff jar. I have changed it a bit over the years.)

Combine three cups of sugar, ¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks) and ¾ cup of undiluted evaporated milk. Bring these ingredients to a full boil. Continue to boil for five minutes, STIRRING CONSTANTLY.

Remove from heat and stir in one 12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, until melted. Add one seven-ounce jar of marshmallow fluff, one teaspoon of vanilla, and one cup of walnuts if desired. Stir until blended.

Pour into 13x9x2” pan. Cool at room temperature and cut into small squares. Makes three pounds.


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