Growing up, the month of December always meant a lot of time in the kitchen. My mom made endless varieties of candies like divinity and Martha Washington Chocolates, peanut brittle and fudge, date loaf and Aunt Bill’s Brown Candy (pronounced “Ain’t Bill’s”) – it’s the most amazing caramel fudge that takes at least two people to make and is completely addictive!
We then packaged all of our handmade items with care and they became Christmas gifts for friends, family and neighbors. To keep that tradition alive, I wanted to share my family recipes for two favorites, Martha Washingtons and Aunt Bill’s, so you might make them and share, too.
Martha Washington Chocolates
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 pounds (8 cups) powdered sugar
- 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
- 4 cups chopped pecans
- 1 cup chopped maraschino cherries
- 1 (12oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melt butter in microwave or on the stove. Cool. Add sweetened condensed milk and powdered sugar and mix until blended. Stir in coconut, pecans and chopped cherries. Roll in 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
Line another baking pan with parchment. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler, stirring often. Using a toothpick or fork, dip chilled balls into melted chocolate and place on baking sheet. Chill until chocolate has set.
Aunt Bill’s Brown Candy
- 6 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 2 cups whole milk or heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 pounds chopped pecans
Call a friend to help. Meanwhile, butter a 13×9-inch pan.
When friend arrives, add 2 cups of the granulated sugar to a cast iron skillet and place over low heat. Heat, stirring constantly until sugar melts. Continue stirring until sugar turns the color of light maple syrup, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine remaining 4 cups sugar with whole milk or cream. Heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer over very low heat while sugar in the skillet is caramelizing.
As soon as sugar in skillet has turned light brown, begin pouring it into the simmering milk mixture in a thin stream, stirring constantly and pouring very slowly. This should take about 3-5 minutes. (This is where the friend comes in handy.)
Continue simmering and stirring until mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 245°F to 250°F, or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a firm but pliable ball.
Turn off heat and add baking soda, stirring vigorously as mixture foams up. Stir in butter and let rest, without stirring, for 20 minutes.
Add the vanilla and begin beating with a wooden spoon until mixture loses its gloss, about 10-15 minutes. (This is where the friend comes in handy again!)
Add pecans and spread into prepared pan. Cool and cut into small squares.