Hot Fudge Sauce

My mother loved to try new things she saw at the Co-op grocery or A & P, so it is very likely that I had my first taste of commercial hot fudge in 1948. That’s when Smucker’s introduced chocolate fudge as one of their spoonable ice cream toppings. She probably made hot fudge sauce before then, because I have loved the stuff for as long as I can remember..

After the Dairy Queen opened in Hayward, I became a regular customer for hot fudge sundaes and hot fudge malts. By the time I was in high school my friends and I would gather at the soda fountain on main street where I even tried hot fudge cokes.

If you think that sounds odd, you did not grow up in the golden age of the soda fountain where you could customize your phosphates and sodas. There were the standards of course–lemon or lime phosphates, lemon/lime phosphates, cherry phosphates and plain Coca Colas. But there were dozens of variations including chocolate cherry cokes, lime cokes and vanilla cokes.

And of course, there was the “Suicide” or “Slop” made with a squirt of just about every flavoring stirred together in a large malt glass. I think that they cost about fifteen cents and were not very good. All the sugar in them, however, made them ideal for dipping the end of your paper-covered straw in the glass and then blowing the paper up to the tin ceiling, If you were lucky, the paper would stick there to make more cleanup work for whatever friend was working at the fountain that day.

Having matured a little, and real soda fountains with tin ceilings almost impossible to find, I no longer try to stick soda straw paper on ceilings. However, I still enjoy eating hot fudge sundaes, especially ones with home made hot fudge sauce.

Many years ago I used a recipe from one of our cookbooks to make what turned out to be the best hot fudge sauce we had ever tasted. I promptly forgot which cookbook held the recipe, and my sporadic attempts to find it proved futile. Then one day I stumbled on it, complete with a “Very good!” note in Jerri’s handwriting.

The recipe is based on one by Jane Buhr from Our Church Picnic compiled by members of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Here is how to make it.


4 squares semisweet chocolate
3 heaping tsp. cocoa
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
A pinch of salt
12 oz. can of evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla


Melt the chocolate, butter and cocoa in a double boiler, stirring frequently to make a velvety liquid. Gradually add the sugar, salt and milk, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm over ice cream or other desserts.

NOTE. You can store this sauce for several weeks in the refrigerator and warm it when needed.


Black Walnut Fudge

In a good year for hazelnuts we kids picked buckets of the greenish pods from the shrubs in our woods and left the nuts to dry on the workbench in the garage.  It was a race with the red squirrels who also relished them.  We used to find piles of empty hazelnut shells on old stumps and fallen trees where squirrels had eaten their fill.

Wild hazelnuts are smaller and have thicker shells than the hazelnuts sold in stores today, so we used Dad’s bench vise to crack the tough shells.  We never collected a lot of the finished product, but it was enough for the fudge Mom made for Christmas.

By the mid 1950’s she had discovered the magic of marshmallow cream and the convenience of packaged walnuts, so Christmas fudge became “Never Fail Fudge” with English walnuts, and the hazelnut harvest ended in the Rang family.  The fudge was easy to make and still tasted delicious, so no one complained.

However, around that same time I fell in love with black walnut fudge.  We didn’t have any black walnut trees near us in Hayward, but we did have aunts and uncles who lived in Indiana and Nebraska where black walnuts were free for the picking.

One of those uncles brought us our first bag of black walnuts, black round nuts so hard that they bounced on the concrete floor.  I remember that Dad showed me how to crack them with the vise and gave me the job of separating the nutmeats from the tough shells.

Until you have tackled that job you will not believe how well God protected black walnuts from people.  You can drive a car over a black walnut without breaking the shell.  In fact, an old gentleman in Charlottesville, Virginia taught me how to remove the husks from black walnuts by doing just that.

He also warned me about the dark pigment in the husks and explained how to dry and cure the nuts.  The husks contain an indelible dye that leaves purple stains on skin, clothes, and porch railings.

Unlike people, squirrels have no trouble getting the meat out of black walnuts  They loved to sit on our car when they ate the nuts.  If the husks were not washed off within an hour or two the damage was done.  I could still see the dark blotches when we sold the car years later.

Last year a member of our church contributed a jar of black walnuts he had shelled to the mission sale table.   I used some of them to make a date pudding and stored the rest in the freezer for fudge this Christmas.

This is basically the same recipe that Mom used for her “Never Fail Fudge”.  The major difference is that she always used semi-sweet chocolate chips while I used bittersweet chips with 60% cacao for a more intense chocolate flavor.


3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 12 oz. package bittersweet chocolate chips
1 jar (about 7 oz.) marshmallow cream
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla
Small amount of butter to grease the pan


Before cooking the candy, chop the nuts coarsely and butter a baking pan.  Either a 7 x 11 inch glass baking dish or a 9 x 13 aluminum cake pan will work.  Make sure that the vanilla and a measuring spoon are ready.

Combine the sugar, salt, butter and milk in a heavy two to three-quart saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Continue boiling over medium heat until a candy thermometer reaches 234° F., stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Add the marshmallow cream, nuts and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour the candy into the buttered pan and spread with a spatula.

Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares and store in a closed container in a cool place or the refrigerator

NOTES:  This recipe makes about three pounds.  When the candy is nearing a boil, I like to cover the pan for a couple of minutes to make sure that all the sugar has dissolved in the steam.  This seems to keep the fudge from developing sugar crystals as it cools.

English walnuts and hazelnuts work fine too, but black walnuts give a unique flavor that really complements the chocolate.