Marshmallow Fluff and Never Fail Fudge (Durkee-Mower Company) – A New England and Parris House Tradition

I’m pretty sure many of you will recognize this plastic tub, especially if you live in New England.

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Disclaimer here:  I realize that this is not a health food.  I’m one of those earthy crunchy organic gardening, home canning, whole foods, clean eating, hiker/runner types.  Even with THIS on the tub, I realize that this is not a health food:

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However…like Grandma’s Christmas cookies, birthday cake on birthdays, and my husband’s home made French vanilla ice cream, there is a time and a place for everything.  At the Parris House, there’s a time and a place for this classic New England recipe:

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At the Parris House, the times for this are Christmas and Valentine’s Day.  Now, I don’t make this recipe.  I do all the cutesy decorating, bake some kind of dessert, and buy conversation hearts and gifts.   This year dessert was cherry pie.  I got the idea for punching heart shaped holes in the crust from 1840 Farm, but, of course, my version looks more like a “nailed it” meme than a faithful replication of the beautiful job Jennifer Burcke did with her pie.

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No, it is my husband Bill who always makes the Never Fail Fudge.  And before we go any further, I’d like to say that the trademark Marshmallow Fluff and the recipe Never Fail Fudge are the intellectual property of the Durkee-Mower company in Lynn, Massachusetts.  I have full permission to blog this recipe.  Do you know why?  Because I actually spoke to the super nice owner of this company on the phone this morning, and had the privilege of thanking him personally for this confection, which, I might mention, while not a health food is also not chock full of bizarre chemicals that no earthly mortal can recognize.  The sole ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white, and vanillin.  Period.  Straightforward and no nonsense, the New England way.  And while the Fluffernutter sandwich is not really for me, it too is something most kids in this part of the country have packed in their lunchboxes more than a few times, a simple straightforward treat that they could make themselves.

It turns out, actually, that this straightforward New England confection has been manufactured since 1920 and the company is still in the same family.  The history is actually very interesting and can be found here, on the company website.  You can also “like” Marshmallow Fluff on Facebook, which is kind of fun.  There are also many recipes on the website, so surf around.

Never Fail Fudge is a rich, deeply chocolate, soft fudge that is truly never fail.  We have not ever had a batch go wrong.  If you do have a batch go wrong, the company website has an FAQ for that, but really…just follow the directions on the bucket.  Here we go.

Bill super greases a 9×13 ceramic cake pan with lots of butter.  The directions on the tub suggest 2 – 9x9s, which would be fine also, of course.  He gets all his ingredients together prior to starting the recipe so that he is free to stir the fudge and pay attention to the temperature of the mixture.

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The ingredients are:  5 cups sugar, 2 small 5 oz. cans of evaporated milk, 1/4 pound butter or margarine (we always use real butter), 1 – 16 oz. tub Marshmallow Fluff, and 1 teaspoon salt.  These are the initial ingredients.  Toward the end you add 1.5 teaspoons vanilla, 1 cup walnut meats (if desired – Bill doesn’t like nuts so we never get this part), and 2 large 12 oz. bags of semi sweet chocolate chips.  This recipe in full is on the Marshmallow Fluff tub and the website.

Bill combines the first 5 ingredients in a large stock pot.  The recipe suggests a 5 quart saucepan.  All of these ingredients are stirred until well blended over low heat.

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Once combined you will bring the ingredients to a boil, and we recommend stirring continually so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan and/or burn.  Boil the mixture slowly, continuing stirring, until it reaches the soft ball candy stage.  The recipe says this will be about 5 minutes, and interestingly, we use a candy thermometer but, in my conversation this morning, the company owner said he does not.  My husband is an accountant, and also our primary cold process soap blender in Maine, so you can imagine that he likes the precision of the thermometer.  If I made this fudge I might just use the more subjective approach.  Either way, remember, it’s never fail fudge.

You will notice, as this is combined, stirred and boiled, it gets a little darker over time.  It’s almost as though it’s caramelizing a little bit, but I don’t know for sure.

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Once you have achieved soft ball status with this mixture, it’s time to remove it from the heat and add the vanilla, the nuts, and the chocolate chips.  Stir until everything is blended and melted together.

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Now it’s just a matter of pouring it in to your waiting buttered pan or pans.

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It will be very hot at this point, so be careful.  Allow to cool completely and then you can cut it in to chunks of your preferred size.  It yields about 5 pounds of fudge, so this is a great recipe – and very economical – for gift giving as well.  We give a lot of it away, and it always seems to be welcomed with enthusiasm.

As you can see in this next photo, Bill cuts the chunks pretty large.  He made that ceramic bowl they’re sitting in too, but that’s another blog post.

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I know from posting about Never Fail Fudge on our Facebook page that many of you are familiar with it, make it, adapt the recipe for different flavors, etc.  Hopefully some of our readers are new to it and will try this amazingly simple and delicious fudge recipe.  Many thanks to the Durkee-Mower company for permission to share, and for answering my phone call so promptly in snow bound Lynn, Massachusetts.

Happy hooking, happy candy making, and happy eating! – Beth

An Approximate Recipe for New England Clam Chowder, or Maybe Just Parris House Clam Chowder?

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As most of you know, we had a blizzard here last Tuesday.  Jen was visiting from Tennessee (and took all the pics for this blog post) and we decided that clam chowder was the best defense against the elements.  By the way, this is what a Southerner looks like braving a blizzard…not bad, actually…

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I will be the first to admit that I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in New Jersey, and went to college in Delaware, so maybe I should be making Manhattan Clam Chowder.  We all know that would be wrong, though.  I also fully expect some New England native to look at what follows and find at least half a dozen things I’m doing “wrong.”  I’m fine with that.  I’m also fine with the fact that everyone loves my clam chowder, including natives.  😉

People ask me a LOT for my clam chowder recipe.  And I never have one.  I’m not being coy or secretive.  I literally don’t have one.  I don’t measure, I don’t think the chowder is ever quite the same twice, and like all soups, it’s always even better the second day. I’m going to attempt to show you how I make my chowder, but please accept the fact that it’s ok to make soup without a precision recipe – in fact, sometimes it’s better to – and have fun making your own approximate chowder recipes.

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First thing I do is put a little olive oil in to the bottom of a very heavy stock pot.  This one belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  You can also use butter (yay, butter!), or any oil of your choice, but I like the flavor of either olive oil or butter.  I then cut up some bacon (or salt pork), and start cooking it in the oil in the pan.  This adds a little bacon or salt pork fat to the soup as well for flavoring.

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Next I chop up a good sized onion and put that in with the saute-ing bacon.  You can also add carrots and celery, but I did not have those in the house on this occasion.  I even put kale in to the finished soup, but a dear Maine native friend of mine (who loves kale in other contexts) says that is positively taboo.

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Next I dice about half a dozen potatoes and add them to the pot.  I then add chicken or vegetable stock in enough quantity to cover the potatoes, depending on what I have in the house.  This is a great reason to make stocks out of your vegetable bits or poultry carcasses or ham bones or what have you and then freeze them so that you can use them on the fly in soups.  I did not have any left in the freezer, so I had to use store bought.   Let everything simmer in the stock until the potatoes are just fork tender.

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When the potatoes are fork tender, it’s time to add enough milk or half & half or cream (this is entirely up to you and your cholesterol levels) to make the soup creamy, but not so much that it makes the soup too thin in terms of vegetable to broth ratio.  If you go with milk, which is inherently less creamy, you can use a little corn starch to thicken the chowder. Add a bottle of clam juice, and the clams.  I used both fresh frozen chopped clams and a can of whole clams.  Do not boil the soup vigorously or cook it too long after this step because you do not want your nice tender clams to toughen.

You can season this soup in any way that makes you happy, although I would avoid really strong flavors that will overpower the delicate taste of the clams.  I just use sea salt (when needed) and freshly ground black pepper (not too much).  And, as I mentioned, I like garnishing with cooked kale, although this is anathema in some circles and perhaps a safer bet is garnishing with oyster crackers (especially if you have a native Mainer at the table).

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So, this is what it looked like by the time we sat down to eat.  (Please excuse the chipped bowl.  These were my grandmother’s dishes from her camp on Little Sebago Lake – see our blog post about Maine lake culture – and I can’t part with them even when they chip.)  We served the chowder with mussels marinara (perhaps another blog post?), Teriyaki steak strips left over from the night before, a green salad, and my son’s home brewed cinnamon vanilla porter (definitely will be another blog post on that).

This is old fashioned home cooking.  I am not a chef.  I have no formal training.  One of the things I love about making soups is that it is analogous to rug hooking in some ways.  Hooking is forgiving in ways that knitting, cross stitch, quilting, and other precision crafts are not.  There is so much freedom in hooking, so much room for experimentation and expression.  So it is with soups.  So just see what you’ve got sitting about in your fridge and have fun with soup making.

Happy cooking and happy hooking!  – Beth