Before Santa Claus comes, Faye Taylor will have made and given away 100 pounds of fudge this holiday season.
It's a tradition for the Wilson woman, who's very much at home in the kitchen.
For about a dozen years, she's given fudge to her family and friends as well as people whose paths she's crossed including her doctors and her children's co-workers.
"I love giving," she said. But don't expect a store-bought gift from Taylor.
"I don't buy any presents," she said. She gives food from her kitchen.
Taylor's fudge-making begins in the 55-year-old frying pan her mother gave her when she got married. It's where she starts each recipe, which includes a stick and a half of butter, 3 cups of sugar and some evaporated milk. Each recipe yields 4 pounds of fudge.
Taylor's husband, Kenneth, gets up at 5 a.m. to go to work. That's as good a time as any to start making fudge, she reasons.
Taylor said this time of year she will normally heat up the iron frying pan around 5, then make another batch two hours later. She'll repeat the process in the afternoon, making two more batches of fudge: caramel, butterscotch, chocolate or vanilla, some with nuts, some without.
It takes Taylor about 30 minutes to cook a batch of fudge. The preparation time takes longer; Taylor always pre-measures ingredients before getting started and has them waiting beside the stove. That way, she doesn't leave out an ingredient.
Once the fudge is made and has cooled, Taylor will sometimes decorate each piece with a pecan before cutting the batch into squares. Other batches are cut into seasonal shapes including Christmas trees or hearts. The fudge leftovers that result from cutting the fudge into shapes are all stored in a plastic container. When she gets enough of the chocolate pieces, she'll melt them down in her frying pan, and add butter and evaporated milk to make enough frosting for her famous 10-layer chocolate cake.
The small tins that are given to individuals usually contain 30 small pieces of fudge and one large cutout. If she's taking a tin to a group of 50 or so in an office, she'll allow two to three pieces per person.
Dr. Harvey Ham and his co-workers have gotten fudge from Taylor for more than a dozen years, he said. His favorite is chocolate fudge packed full of chopped pecans.
"The fudge is absolutely marvelous; it melts in your mouth," he said. "You can't have just one piece."
Ham said Taylor's a giving and thoughtful person.
"When she walks in, it's with a smile. She says, 'God bless y'all,' and she walks out the door." She doesn't give them a chance to thank her or fuss over her.
"It's her blessing to do that for us," Ham said.
In recent weeks, Taylor's granddaughter Bridgette Baker and great-grandson C.J. Baker have helped with the fudge-making and grocery shopping. They were with her last week when she bought another 10 pounds of butter and 15 bags of marshmallows. They shop around for the best prices, Baker said.
And they're always on the lookout for good prices on holiday tins to store and give the fudge in as well. People also give tins to Taylor for her holiday fudge.
"That's because they want them back full!" Baker said, laughing.
C.J., who's 4, is learning how to make fudge and helps his great-grandmother with the process. It's important to Taylor that her cooking knowledge is passed on down the generations. C.J.'s favorite part is the sampling. Before a pan of chocolate pecan fudge had cooled one morning last week, C.J. was eyeing it, wanting a taste.
"I could eat the whole spoonful; throw it in my mouth," he said.
Taylor's recipe is one she's developed over the years, making changes as she's gone along.
For instance, she now uses butter instead of margarine.
She tastes every batch she makes, cutting off a small piece in the corner of the pan, just to make sure it's right.
"Now I've got my fudge like I think it's good," she said.
Faye’s Chocolate Pecan Fudge
- 3/4 cup Carnation evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 10 1/2 oz. bag miniature marshmallows
- 1 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Gradually add marshmallows, chips, nuts and vanilla (in that order) with a hand mixer. Incorporate each ingredient before adding the next. Continue mixing until smooth, approximately 10 minutes.
Pour into a buttered 11X18-inch pan. Let cool at room temperature before cutting.