We’ve been getting quite the taste of winter here the past few days. I haven’t had any time to start preparing for Christmas, the next important holiday on my calendar. Today with the pretty, if deadly, snow has put me in the mood to start making some of the goodies I consider necessary for this celebration. The Candies section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898) contains all sorts of delicious recipes. I’ve made one version of Maple Creams but there are three more. Tonight I thought I’d try Mrs. Duncan of Hamilton’s recipe.
I put 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan along with 4 cups of brown sugar and 3/4 cup of milk. After I stirred I turned on the heat and let it melt and eventually come to the boil. Soon it was time to start testing. I set up a cup of cold on the stove and periodically dropped a bit off the sugary liquid off a spoon and into the water. The line “hardens in water but is not crisp” seems straight forward but in practice I found it challenging. Is this soft ball or hard ball? I’m sure it is not soft crack or hard crack — two other terms used in candying. I settled on removing the pan when I could form a hard ball with the liquid I dropped in the water. Next I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a hand full of chopped walnuts. I started stirring and again tried to figure out the moment to stop and pour the liquid into a pan. I struggle to make fudge and maple creams are fudge. I missed the moment again. I stirred and thought it is time to pour but gave it just one more stir to be sure. Suddenly my liquid was turning to sugar. I quickly poured it into a pan but it was impossible to stir anymore. I had my final product and just had to wait for it to cool enough to taste.
I suspected discovering the identity of Mrs. Duncan of Hamilton was going to be a challenge. I was right. The 1891 census has at least fifteen women who were married to men with the surname Duncan living in the city of Hamilton. That is a very large pool to begin a search. I tried checking the Galt people who might have a Mrs. Duncan in their midst with a relative in Hamilton but that didn’t produce results either. I only have one family with the Duncan surname in my “Galt Cook Book” family tree and they lived in the Woodstock area. I think I have to give up for tonight but perhaps someday I’ll find out more about Mrs. Duncan of Hamilton.
As I mentioned I don’t have much success in making fudge. The Berlin Cook Book (1906) has a recipe for Maple Cream that seems to be fool-proof. I’ve had great success with it several times. Sadly Mrs. Duncan’s version sugared so much it was hard to cut a piece to sample. It tastes good so with proper timing it should be a usable recipe but meanwhile I’m sticking to May Haddow’s version from 1906. You can find it here in the blog I kept in 2012.
Mrs. Duncan, Hamilton
Four cups brown sugar, three-quarters cup milk, butter size of walnut, flavoring, nuts. Put the sugar, milk and butter on to boil until it hardens in water but is not crisp. Add flavoring and nuts chopped fine if you like just before removing from the fire. Then beat before pouring out until it has something the appearance of sugar.Then pour out in a buttered pan and beat until nearly sugared. Then mark off in squares.