Ever wonder how Fudge became a staple Up North?
Atlantic City is known for Saltwater Taffy, Maine for Lobster and New Orleans for Beignets. Many tourist areas have their own specialty that you have to try when you visit and take some home for later. Northern Michigan is know for many things, cherries, wine, pasties, and fresh water.
The food you will find up and now any Up North main street and what we call our tourist and what I think the area is best known for – Fudge. Almost every tourist town in Northern Michigan has a fudge shop where not only can you sample and buy creamy and delicious fudge, you can watch it being made.
In the late 18th century, fudge was a verb meaning “to fit together or adjust [clumsily].” Around 1800, the word was used to mean a hoax or cheat. By mid-century, the use of the term “Oh, fudge!” as a kid-friendly expletive and was often used when something had been messed up. It’s believed that the first batch of fudge was created when someone was trying to make caramels in the 1880’s in Baltimore and “fudged” up. The name stuck.
So how did fudge find its way Up North? Mackinac Island is where it is believed to have begun. Father and son Henry and Jerome “Rome” Murdick were hired to create canvas awnings for the new Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Using Rome’s mother Sara’s family recipes from Germany they opened the island’s first candy store in 1887.
Henry continued to make sails in the back of the building while in the front of the building house Murdick’s Candy Kitchen. Rome made candy in the front of the store using a marble table and would give demonstrations to visitors on how the fudge was made. Visitors and residents loved watching the fudge being made and most days Murdick’s attracted a crowd watching Rome work the fudge. Of course, they always left the store with a sweet treat.
Seeing the success Rome was having with his demonstrations more candy stores followed his lead. Fudge-making soon became a public event and competitors would demonstrate their craft, mixing ingredients in a kettle and using wooden paddles to stir them. The more skilled fudge men would really put on a show mesmerizing visitor with their theatrics. Some would allow the hot gooey fudge to nearly drip off the side of the marble table and at the last-minute come along the edge with their long-handled trowel and fold the creamy candy back to the center of the table. A common trick among shop owners would use electric fans to send the aroma of chocolate out onto the street. The aromas would tempt passersby into their store and they would usually walk out with some fudge.
Mackinac Island is not the only place to find our infamous fudge anymore. From Manistee to Cheboygan, Charlevoix to Gaylord fudge shops dot the Up North landscape with different flavors and varieties. Many shops use flavor and ingredients their communities are known for.
Good news is that Fudge will not melt!
No matter how hot the day, your fudge will not melt! One of the reasons is the ingredients used that don’t melt (heavy cream instead of butter). Fudge makers also slice the fudge while it is still warm so it forms a firm out shell.
Because of the stability of fudge, Up North fudge is shipped all over the world and airtight packages can be frozen and stored up to a year without losing any flavor. So, give in to the temptation and buy a larger chunk next time you walk into one of Up North’s fudge shops.
Watch for more facts and adventures in Northern Michigan!