Klamath county's cold frosty, and many times snowy, December nights heralded a family tradition – making candy. My dad really liked candy, especially divinity. The high desert cold air was perfect for making divinity. Another necessity was strong arms and wrists to turn the old fashioned metal eggbeaters (not the ones with nylon bearings -- earlier vintage egg beaters!). Our father provided the muscle for making divinity. As I got older, he would let me take a turn before the divinity became too stiff – for me. Then he would take over. You had to love divinity to be willing to hand turn an old fashioned egg beater long enough so that it could be spooned out in white peaked mounds on a buttered plate. If the weather was too damp, we quite often had spoon divinity, but that too was a holiday happening with all of us hovered over the platter of shiny, but unset divinity, with our spoons ready for the first dip. Then periodically we would stroll past the platter for another dip.
Making fudge was also high on our candy making list. We were a tad obsessive about making the perfect plate of fudge. It had to be smooth and creamy, not grainy and definitely not spoon fudge. I don't know how my younger brothers took up the fudge making mantle, but they did.
My two younger brothers were just little guys when our dad was killed. They didn't have a lot of the candy making memories of those days, but they learned to make very good fudge – and at an early age. A while back, I looked at an old 8 mm movie clip of them making fudge. I could not believe how really young they were – 5 and 3 years old. They each have carried on the candy making tradition in their own families.
In the early 1950s my Aunt Gail brought home one of the “bootlegged” Christmas Fudge recipes that was supposed to have been from a major candy company. I don't know if that was true or not, but I do know that yummy fudge became a family holiday tradition. Come December, my sister and I would stock up on milk chocolate bars,chocolate chips, marshmallow topping,walnuts, canned milk --- and butter was always on hand. The recipe made about 5 pounds of sinfully good fudge. We made this Christmas fudge to have for the holidays, we gave it as gifts, and took it to parties and family gatherings. T'was a bit like a giant candy exchange, as everyone else in the family was doing the same thing.
The older of my two brothers always makes fudge at Christmas. His kids, and now grandkids, gather round to “help” – well now they are old enough to really help. He also makes a white chocolate version of this recipe, which is very well received in this candy loving family. One of the biggest platters of fudge that I ever saw, was at a Christmas eve party at his home. The stack of fudge measured about 2' in diameter and was stacked about 18” tall. Very impressive to any fudge connoisseur.
The middle one of my three brothers has become the family caramel maker --- his caramels to die for. He patiently stirs his concoction of sugar and extra heavy cream at a fairly low heat (we say low, because our family cooks mostly on High – who needs those little knobs with the little marks). He doles his caramels out throughout the holiday season --- and if he gets low, he makes another batch. We wait – not so patiently.
My youngest brother also carries on the tradition with his family, which includes three lovely girls. A few years ago at a tree decorating party, my two youngest brothers were in mother's kitchen whipping up fudge. I walked in and thought I was in a fudge cook-off. They take their fudge making seriously.
In Eugene, my sister and a friend of hers would make up platters of almond roca so we had a change of pace. My sister also makes a mean batch of fudge --- but not so much anymore, now that the nieces and nephews have grown up. My daughter-in-law and I used to go into high candy making mode during the holidays. I would do fudge and divinity. She liked to make mint patties, a rolled nougat ball, candied nuts, and a toffee bark.
I don't make candy so much anymore. Children and grandchildren are in different states, and family traditions change. Platters of candy have been replaced by platters of veggies and fruits --- but when the snow flies, and the wind blows cold, I dream of divine divinity, creamy fudge and memories of those candy making times.