Whenever I think of maple sugar cream fudge, or sucre a la creme, I think of two things. First, of my mom guiltily sneaking samples from the fudge vendor at Saltspring’s Summer Market when my step dad isn’t looking. Being raised in Quebec, her favourite flavour is naturally maple. I also think of Quebec during the winter holidays, of the late night festivities during reveillon and of the doting French Canadian women who serve platter after platter of food and stare you down until your plate is wiped clean. The food is mouth-watering and worthy of a Lipitor commercial it is so artery-clogging. Sometimes, you’ll find a few unexpected menu items at these dinners, like Cheese Whiz served on hot dog buns or on white bread without crusts, or mini hot dogs in sauce. All in all, though, French Canadians serve up exquisite desserts that’ll leave you with a sugar high: you’ll get to splurge on homemade doughnuts and cakes drizzled in maple toffy and of course, my favourite, maple sugar cream.
If you haven’t yet had the privilege of being invited to a reveillon, I’ll describe one to you. Usually taking place around Christmas or New Year’s Eve, reveillon is an all-night, family-friendly house party with limitless food and alcohol, traditional music and plenty of cheek-kissing. When entering the person’s home and after the customary two-cheek kiss, the host will normally take one’s boots or footwear and toss them into the bathtub where they’ll sit with a dozen other pairs, likely the cleanest method of containing the slushy mess from outdoors. The newly arrived will make the tour of the room, exchanging pleasantries and many more cheek-kisses until their lips are well-chapped.
At my first reveillon, a few years ago, I started eyeing up the clock at 9:30 pm, as dinner had long ended and back home this would typically be when I would start indiscreetly yawning and rattling my keys to signal my departure to my girlfriend. Just as I was about to grab my boots from the tub, another round of dishes was served, Round Two, and then I was whisked away to an adjoining room with a piano and an aunt with a fiddle, while the older men played poker in the dining room and talked of motor homes and catching trout. The more musical of us grabbed cutlery, for tapping, and salt shakers from the table or anything else handy that would make a sound, while others simply stomped their feet. It is not uncommon at these parties to see 90 year old grandmothers tapping spoons together, singing until the wee hours of the morning.
If you do visit Quebec, make sure to venture out into the more rural villages beyond the cosmopolitan Montreal. There, a more authentic form of culture is found; and the only English known to most are words gleaned from television hockey games or bilingual cereal boxes. If you get invited to someone’s house for dinner, make sure to save room for dessert, as they will surely bring a plateful of warm and creamy maple sugar fudge. The version here is meant to be a little softer than usual fudge, so don’t be surprised if it is deliciously gooey in your hands.
Makes 24 squares
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
You’ll need a medium saucepan, a rectangular baking pan, wax paper and a candy thermometer
1 cup of granulated white sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup maple syrup (not the Aunt Jemimah stuff)
1/4 tsp salt
75 grams of white chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place a sheet of wax paper at the bottom of the baking dish. If it doesn’t cover the entire bottom and sides, grease the inside of the dish then put the sheet back over. The wax paper is essential as it will make it much easier to remove afterwards.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat together the sugars, cream, salt, butter and syrup. Keep stirring until well mixed. Keep heating until the mixture begins to boil. Let boil for about 3-5 minutes or until a candy thermometer inserted inside reads 230 degrees F. Reaching this temperature is important or else the mixture may not harden properly during cooling. Once reached, remove immediately from the heat.
3. Add white chocolate pieces and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Don’t mix, just let it sit and begin to cool for about 12 minutes. Then stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon, for about 3 minutes, until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and of a consistent colour.
4. Pour mixture into the baking dish. Let cool in the fridge overnight or until sufficiently hardened. If you prefer your fudge a little harder, put them in the freezer for 30 minutes and then remove before serving. Cut into 25 squares.