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December 2016

Chocolate Fudge in Three Varieties: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, or Salt Topped


Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Fudge
Dark and Milk Chocolate Fudge

I have been hungry for my mother's fudge, but she made old-fashioned fudge that sometime did not set up. I wanted rich dark fudge without marshmallow fluff, confectioners' sugar, or chocolate chips. I adapted this one from Williams-Sonoma to make darker, more adult, fudge that fits the bill, and is easy to make. I am making this for Christmas Day, but I will this in my mind for Valentine's Day. At the bottom of the page I offer two more variations - Milk Chocolate, or Salt Topped, all are excellent.

Adapted from: Williams-Sonoma The Best of Kitchen Library: Holiday Favorites published by Oxmoor House, 2004.


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Dark Chocolate Toasted Nut Fudge



  • 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces high quality 71% cacao dark chocolate chopped (for dark fudge)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (European style butter has a higher fat content and will make richer fudge).
  • 3/4 cup toasted nuts chopped, plus 28 more halves for garnish, if desired (almonds are a nice small size, but almost any nut will work). 
    chopped nuts





  • Chop your chocolate Chop chocolate
  • Toast your nuts on a cookie sheet in a 350˚ degree oven for 3-4 minutes (watching all the while like a hawk). When slightly brown remove almonds quickly from heat. Chop and measure nuts, reserve 28 halves for topping.
  • Line the inside of a 9x5 inch loaf pan with foil, and spray with oil.
Line loaf pan with foil
Line loaf pan with foil









  1. Place unsweetened chopped baking chocolate, chocolate bar(s) and vanilla in a metal or Pyrex heat safe bowl; set aside.
  2. Combine sugar, condensed milk, cream, 1/2 cup water and butter in heavy 3 quart saucepan.
  3. Coat the sides of the saucepan with 1/4 cup water periodically (using a pastry brush) to help prevent sugar crystals from forming.
  4. Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and sugar dissolves. Brushing down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to keep sugar crystals from forming.
  5. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to rolling boil. Mixture will rise to 3/4 of pan height as it boils. Take care to control heat. Pot with candy thermometer
  6. Reduce heat to medium-high, clip on candy thermometer, (if you don't have a candy thermometer, a meat thermometer will work) and cook, stirring slowly, until a candy thermometer registers 230F. Times will vary, but will be about 15 minutes.
  7. If a residue formed on the bottom of the saucepan, don't scrape it out. Pour boiling mixture over the chocolate and stir until chocolate melts (about a minute). Mix in chopped nuts and transfer to the loaf pan, smoothing the top.
  8. Transfer fudge to prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle chopped nuts or place nut halves on top and press down firmly. Place the nuts halves closely to facilitate cutting small sized fudge pieces. Refrigerate uncovered until firm enough to cut, about 2 hours, or overnight.  Nut halves on top of fudge
    9. Lift fudge from pan with foil flaps and cut into pieces. This makes smooth tasting exceptionally rich fudge. Smaller sizes are best, 28 pieces are ideal.

Store covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Pecan topped fudge



For milk chocolate fudge:

To make milk chocolate fudge, substitute 6 ounces high quality milk chocolate, chopped. Use a brand you like to eat, for example Cadbury, Godiva, or Lindt. Resist the urge to use chocolate chips - they are designed to hold their shape under heat. We want our fudge to melt smoothly in our mouth.

For salted top fudge:

For a salted top layer lightly sprinkle coarse salt over the top of fudge, before adding nut top and before fudge cools.


Fudge Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook colored

Weather can have an effect on your candy making, especially the humidity. A cool, dry day is the best time to make candy. Making fudge in the rain is harder to do. The whole purpose of boiling is to precisely concentrate the sugar-milk mixture. The boiling point temperature is affected by the barometric pressure. Ideally, a steady barometric pressure reading, at or close to 30.00 inches of mercury, and rising, is perfect. If it is a humid, or rainy day, and you need to make fudge, add a degree or two hotter than the recipe calls for to compensate.

Your altitude also plays a role in determining the proper temperature end point. The general rule is to lower the boiling point target temperature by 1.9 degrees F. for each 1,000 feet altitude above sea level.



The Jam Scientist

It's not too late! There is still time to make homemade mustard


Homemade Grainy Mustard
Homemade Grainy Mustard

My easy grainy mustard version requires soaking the mustard seeds for at least a day or two and chopping seeds in a food processor. The smooth version (at bottom of page) simply combines dry mustard powder with a few ingredients and is even easier. If you are making mustard for yourself you may just keep your mustard refrigerated (if you have room for 3 jars in your fridge), but if giving this as a gift, or if you want to store your extra jars on the shelf one should use water bath canning. A set of mustards would make a wonderful gift.

I am sorry I have been slow in posting lately. I have been working to get grandpa enrolled into elder daycare. It has taken several days' work, and many interviews, but he is now enrolled. I think this will be a good move for him. I will let you know how it is working out.

I am no mustard expert, but I did work of French's directly after graduating from college, and find the art and science of mustard making fascinating.  I absolutely love the pungent horseradish-like taste of European style mustard that clears your sinuses, but fresh artisan mustards are hard to find in many areas of the country. Home mustard making is easy to do. Look at The Jam Scientist's Notebook section of this post to learn tips for controlling and utilizing mustard's natural kick.

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making mustard.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Canning Instructions from Virginia Tech.


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Grainy Dijon Mustard Recipe

Adapted from The Art of Preserving, (Williams-Sonoma)  published by Weldon Owen, 2010.

Recipe type:

mustard (condiment)



2 or 3, 8-oz jars or half-pints

Prep time: 

1 to 2 days



1/4 inch

Cook time: 

10 to 25 minutes



10 minutes

Total time: 

1 to 2 days plus 30 minutes



1  cup (4 ounces) mustard seeds (combination of yellow, brown or black is best) White and black mustard seeds, plus  2 Tablespoons mustard power

1⁄2 cup cool water (for soaking seeds)

1- 1/2 cups (16 fluid ounces) dry white wine or flat champagne

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1 yellow onion, gruffly chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional if you want a more yellow mustard)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt


  1. Sterilize jars and prepare lids per manufacture's instruction (if canning mustard). 
  2. In bowl, stir together mustard seeds and cool water (if you do not want the spicy mustard kick use boiling water). Set aside in refrigerator for 1 to 2 days (add more water if needed to keep seeds wet).
  3. Processing mustard seeds(After 1 to 2 days) Blend seeds in food processor to the desired grainy consistency (you will be unable to make a completely smooth mustard by grinding whole mustard seeds). Add dry mustard powder to the wet mixture. Mustard Powder
  4. In small nonreactive saucepan (such as stainless steel), combine wine, onion and garlic. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
  5. Pouring wine mixture through fine-mesh sievePour wine mixture through fine-mesh sieve into chopped mustard and stir until combined. Add sugar (or honey), salt, turmeric (optional), and vinegar. Transfer to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened as desired (5 to 20 minutes).
  6. Have ready hot, sterilized jars and their lids.
  7. Spoon hot mustard into prepared jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles (use a small spatula, chopstick, or plastic knife etc, inside the jar pressing between the mustard and the side of the jar). Adjust headspace, if necessary. Wipe rims clean and seal tightly with lids. If canning, process 10 minutes in bowling water bath, or store in refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Note: Canned mustard is very thick and can siphon (liquid drawn out of the jar during processing) if the pressure in the jar changes quickly. To avoid this, one may turn off the heat at the end of processing and wait 5 - 10 minutes before removing jars from the water bath; this gives time for the temperature and pressure in the jar to equalize. 

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

Note: For best flavor, let mustard stand for 1 to 2 weeks before using (freshly ground mustard from seeds can be bitter for a few days).


Honey Dijon Mustard Honey Dijon

Omit the sugar, and stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey before transferring the mustard to the jars.  

Tarragon Dijon Mustard

Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon before transferring the mustard to the jars.

Smooth Dijon 

The quickest and easiest mustard to make. Substitute 1 cup ground mustard powder (no need to soak or grind before combining ingredients).  Simmer onion mix longer (for 20 minutes) to reduce volume.


Mustard Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook colored

How do I know this recipe is safe? pH and Heat

pH - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). The pH of Dijon Mustard ranges from 3.1 to 3.7 - well within the safety zone. Mustard oil also has some natural defense against microbe growth. The AIT in brown mustard oil inhibits the growth of several yeasts, fungus, and mycotoxin producing molds.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is an extra insurance in killing any actively growing bacteria and prevents yeast and mold growth that might have survived.

Mustard's heat mainly comes from enzymes:

Mustard's heat is formed when the seeds are damaged, or ground. This damage releases enzymes and other compounds within the seeds that combine when moisture is available.

The enzymes work quickly with cool water, but this reaction is unstable and will not last a long time.  Enzymes combine slowly in acids and the horseradish-like taste reaction will be more stable and last longer in an acidic mix. On the other hand, a pH that is very low can prevent the natural heat formation altogether.

High heat will deactivate enzymes and can also prevent the characteristic taste from developing (this could be a plus if you are making the mustard for young children).

If you want the pungent flavor of mustard to develop, one can allow enzymes to react with the ground mustard first in water, then add an acid (like vinegar or wine) to help stabilize the mustard over time.

For more information see Joshua Bousel's excellent resource Mustard Manual: Your Guide to Mustard Varieties

Mustard seed heat scale:

On the mustard heat scale, white (yellow), Brassica alba, seeds are the mildest.

Black (brown), Brassica nigra, mustard seeds are spiciest.

Bright yellow mustard:

Use turmeric to achieve the characteristic American style bright yellow mustard color.


The Jam Scientist

Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies - all the rich spices of gingerbread without all the work!

Cookie jar full of Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies
Cookie jar full of Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies

All the delicious taste and fragrance of gingerbread without all the work. I made 5 dozen of these soft, chewy, quick drop cookies, loaded with ginger and cinnamon, during the long Thanksgiving weekend. Grandpa, The Professor, and the whole family love them; by the end of the weekend, they were all gone!

I love the flavor of gingerbread, but I don't want to spend all day making it. I adapted Better Homes and Gardens' Ginger Cookies recipe to include all the rich spices of gingerbread, and included an option for a smaller sized batch at the end of this post, but honestly, these cookies will go so fast I would suggest baking the full batch size to avoid disappointment. When I checked for similar recipes online I was happy to find my recipe was comparable to the Test Kitchen's Molasses Spice Cookies, so you know it has got to be good!

  Best Little Jam House



4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

4 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt (omit all added salt if using salted butter)

1-1/2 cups, 3 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup light or dark molasses

3/4 cup sugar for dipping (Turbinado sugar or coarse sugar is preferable)



  1. Adjust oven rack(s) to middle position(s) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
  2. If using standing mixer fit with paddle attachment, or use electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl beat butter on medium-low speed until butter is whipped, about 30 seconds. Add the 2 cups sugar a little at a time on medium-high speed. Beat until combined and light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to medium-low; beat in eggs, vanilla, and molasses until combined.
  3. For Standing mixer: Reduce standing mixer speed to low setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl. Give dough a stir by hand to ensure that no flour remains at bottom of the bowl. Dough will be soft.
    • If not using a stand mixer: beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour mixture by hand.
  4. Scoop dough using a size #70 cookie scoop (1.25 inch diameter) rounding the top to approximate a ball, or shape dough into generous 1-1/4 inch balls. Roll the top of ball in the 3/4 cup sugar.
    #70 scoop delivers uniform cookies
    #70 scoop delivers uniform cookies
  5. Place 1-1/2 inches apart on a parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. If baking two sheets at a time: start cookies on the top rack and half way through baking move to the bottom rack, while reversing position of baking sheet from front to back during the move. Add the second sheet half way through the first bake onto top rack. Otherwise, cookies baked only on the hotter bottom rack may not develop the attractive cracks.
    • If baking the cookies one sheet at a time: Bake on the middle rack only, but reverse position from front to back half way through the bake. Cookies should develop attractive cracks on top.
  7. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are puffed. Cookies should look somewhat under baked (do not over-bake). Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies (60 cookies) if using#70 scoop, or hand rolling a 1-1/4 inch ball.


5 dozen cookies are just too much? Here is a smaller batch size:

Makes 2 to 3 dozen depending on ball size, just follow the directions above.

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1-1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt (omit all added salt if using salted butter)

3/4 cup (1-1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup light or dark molasses

1/2 cup sugar for dipping (Turbinado sugar or coarse sugar is preferable)







The Jam Scientist