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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Bottrall

Mackinac Island Fudge

I paddled fudge today. No, I did not give it a spanking, although it may have deserved it for ending up all over the floor. But instead, I dipped and swirled it around on the cold marble table, helping it cool down and become firm enough to slice and sell. For just a minute the world boiled down to just me and 23 pounds of sugar and corn syrup, melted together with butter, vanilla and a gallon of cream. We were making Butter Pecan Fudge at The Original Murdick's Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island.

All of this was cooked down and boiled while stirring constantly until the mixture reached 240 degrees. It took two strong men to lift the copper pot and pour it over the marble table. Carnell, who has been paddling fudge for 18 years at Murdick’s, threw hundreds of pecans on top and let the whole thing sit and cool for about 10 minutes. When the mixture reached some magic point that only Carnell years of experience could discern, it was time to start paddling.

Carnell gave me the lowdown. Specific instructions I just knew I would mess up. It starts with holding the paddle perfectly in your hands. The fingers of my right hand flat on the paddle handle, blade tipped at almost 90 degrees so as not to burn myself. He was adamant about not pushing the fudge but flipping it on the cool marble table. It’s the motion that makes all the difference, he said. The motion is so important that Murdick’s lists their technique as the secret ingredient in their fudge. Paddlers at The Original Murdick’s Fudge have been doing it the same way since Sara Murdick first perfected the recipe in the 1880’s. Murdick's was the first candy shop on Mackinac Island all the way back in 1889, thus the name "The Original Murdick's Fudge. The candy makers work with boiling sugar which reaches temperatures up to 360 degrees, so technique is not only important to the texture and taste but also for the safety of the workers.

While paddling the fudge it’s important to ignore the dozens of guests packed into the shop watching your every move. Children with their mouths hanging open, breathing deep of the candy scented air. "It smells so good in here," one pigtailed girl exclaimed. Another sat on her dad’s shoulders to see better and someone else asked how I got to be so lucky to be allowed to paddle the fudge. But I had to pay attention to what I was doing and not the audience. Paddling fudge is hard work, and doing it correctly, well, apparently, I’m going to need an awful lot more practice, at least according to Carnell.

Murdick’s makes 25 to 30 batches of fudge every day to keep up with the heavy demand from island visitors and internet sales. That’s at least 150 pounds of sugar a day. And that’s just fudge. They also make nut brittle's and caramel corn and white cheddar popcorn. There is hardly any limit on confectionary options at Murdick’s.

I was going to give you the recipe for fudge after today’s excursion to the candy shop, but I couldn’t get Carnell to share the top secret recipe with me and I can see I’m going to need more practice learning how to expertly paddle the sugary concoction.

Instead, I’m going to encourage you to come to the island and buy yourself some fudge at one of their three island stores, or at a store in St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. Or you can go online also. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, taken by my cousin Toni Mitchell who was visiting. And ignore the sunglasses, please. I just got prescription sunglasses for the first time in a very long time, and I forgot I had them on. (I can't believe no one said anything?!)

Meanwhile, I will practice my fudge making and hopefully come up with a recipe for you by the end of summer.

Thank you Murdick’s Fudge for letting me see the production from the other side – literally.

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