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How Our Fudge Is Made
A trip to Cherry Crest isn’t complete without a stop at the Sweet Shop on your way out, for some of our delicious home-made fudge! But how do we make Lancaster County’s best fudge? Come behind the scenes for a sneak peek at the process!
Believe it or not, all of our fudge flavors start out in one of two most basic forms: either “plain” or “chocolate.” From there, we will various flavorings and “mix-ins” (like candy or nuts) to create the unique and individual flavors. But we always start with either plain or chocolate fudge. The plain or neutral base allows us to make a variety of flavors like mint, pumpkin, raspberry, and more!
On her weekly Fudge Making Day, our fudge maker begins by turning the fudge kettle on to the highest setting. It takes approximately 25 minutes to pre-heat, so while she waits, she looks at an inventory sheet of all the fudge that we have left. She uses the inventory to make a list of pans that she will need to make. You can get multiple pans out of one batch of fudge, and some flavors use half plain and half chocolate fudge, so there is some math involved as she figures out how much of each kind she will need to make!
Once she has determined how much fudge she will make, it’s time for the mixing process to begin. All the ingredients are put into the kettle, along with several cups of water. The amount of water per batch actually varies slightly, and is dependent on how humid it is. This is the reason why we keep our Sweet Shop air-conditioned: so we can regulate the humidity and temperature for fudge-making! However, the humidity has a way of creeping in on those really hot days, so she still might have to adjust the amount of water to a batch. This is something that comes with practice, and through trial and error. Luckily, our fudge maker has lots of willing participants if she has some “slightly gooey” fudge that can’t be sold!
She monitors the mixture as the dry and liquid ingredients come together. If they’re not mixing well for some reason, she might stop and use the spatula to help mix it around. While the fudge is mixing, she lines the pans with a special kind of parchment paper so that the fudge is easily removed. The corners of the paper are carefully cut to create a pocket, so that the fudge can’t sneak down into the pan, but stays o n top of the paper.
When the fudge mixture is smooth and creamy (you won’t find any clumps here), she adds one last ingredient—and you might be surprised to know that it’s vanilla flavoring! Vanilla is a natural flavor enhancer, which means that it makes orange taste more orange-y. We add it to both plain and chocolate fudge, and it helps bring out the other flavors that we add!
If there will be any mix-ins like candy or nuts, these are mixed together in a separate bowl, before the fudge is poured into the pan. It can be difficult to get the measurements just right, so many times you will see us make layers with the mix-ins, instead of putting them within the fudge. Other flavors have the mix-ins on top.
The fudge is carefully poured into the pan while it sits on the scale, so each pan contains the same amount of fudge. The pans sit for at least 24 hours while the fudge “sets” or gets firm. Again, it’s important that it’s not too humid or the fudge stays too gooey.
While making fudge, it’s very important for our fudge-maker to be aware of the ingredients that come in contact with each other. Many people have allergies to nuts or gluten, and it’s important to reduce the risk of cross-contamination as much as possible. Since all of our fudge is made using shared equipment, we can’t guarantee that cross-contamination hasn’t occurred—gluten can stay in the air for over 48 hours!! But we are very careful to keep it in mind for guests who have minor reactions and want to take the risk.
You may wonder how our fudge maker chooses which fudge flavors to make (or why she won’t bring your absolute favorite back). The benefit of having a fudge shop that has been open for almost ten years now (can you believe it?!) means we've had a good bit of time to watch for trends. Part of the fudge maker’s job is to keep track of which flavors sell the best, and which don’t do so well. Some of our “staple” flavors have been around since the very beginning because they are such great sellers, like Tiger Butter, Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate Chip and of course, Vanilla and Chocolate. Sometimes the fudge maker looks online to find new fudge recipe ideas: this is how the idea for Dark Salty Knight came about. Other times, she just experiments with various flavor combinations and mix-ins until she gets something that she thinks will sell. Shoo-Fly Pie is pretty specific to the Lancaster County area, so to turn it into a fudge flavor, our fudge maker had to do some trial-and-error with molasses flavoring before she found a winning combination.
The business of fudge making is never dull! If you’ve never had the chance to try our fudge, make sure you stop by the Sweet Shop for a sample next time you’re here… it’s Lancaster County’s best!