The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








(Above and below) Fudge from the Mill Fudge Factory. Courtesy photos.

Old school
NH-made fudge a sweet tradition

By Kelly Sennott

 Fudge-making in New Hampshire is kind of like the holiday season itself — it’s all about traditions and nostalgia.

It’s one of the things Doug Nelson, owner of Nelson’s Candies in Wilton, likes about the business. Some of his machines date back to 1906, and the recipes are the same his grandfather used when he started Nelson’s Candies in 1911. The fudge, characterized by its sugary texture, is made in an antique copper kettle, stirred by hand with wooden paddles. Nelson’s been doing it since age 14.
“Everything we make, we’ve used the same formulas. Nothing has changed. As long as raw ingredients don’t change, the candy’s not going to change,” Nelson, now 72, said via phone. “We’re old-school!”
Visitors can see the process themselves if they stop by the Wilton shop, which has been in town for 24 years.
“It’s all wide open — we don’t make anything in the back room. Anybody can look right over and see what we’re doing,” Nelson said. 
At the time of his interview, Nelson was preparing for some long days making the “old standards” — chocolate, chocolate walnut, penuche and peanut butter, plus seasonals like maple, maple walnut, pumpkin and pumpkin pecan. 
“Christmas is our biggest holiday. That’s what keeps us in business,” Nelson said.
The same is true for candy shop owners and fudge makers all over the state. Danielle Maxwell, general manager at Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester, said staff were making two batches of fudge a day around Christmastime, working an average of 50 to 60 hours a week to keep up with demand.
“It’s a cozy product,” Maxwell said. “We sell 9 tons of Swiss fudge a year, and more than half of that is sold during the holiday season.”
Their Swiss fudge recipe is also old-school — it’s the same founder Evangeline Hasiotis and her chocolatier came up with around the time she started the company in 1935, though this time of year you can get it in a variety of holiday flavors, like peppermint.
“I think what makes ours unique is that it’s got a smoother, creamier texture. It melts in your mouth,” Maxwell said. “People relate to ours like the inside of a truffle. The smooth texture of it is like ganache.”
Linda Carmichael, co-owner of the Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol, who originates from Glasgow, Scotland, said her business’s fudge recipe was inspired by her father’s old butter-based Scottish tablet but is made with all-natural ingredients (and New Hampshire-made honey instead of corn syrup) and no preservatives.
“We wanted to make it softer than tablet, which is breakable,” Carmichael said. “Our fudge is actually a little different because it’s butter-based, rather than cream-based, so it has a slightly different texture.”
In addition to traditional chocolate and salted caramel flavors, Mill Fudge offers cabin fever maple whiskey, cranberry maple nut, eggnog, pumpkin and chocolate mint fudge this time of year.
Carmichael and her husband, David Munro, and stepson, Noah Munro, started the ice cream and fudge business in 2006, but she said it still has an old-school feel; it’s located in a renovated old building near Bristol’s town square, and the back of it, where the fudge is made, dates back to the 1700s. 
Carmichael said they work hard to be a community-supporting institution that people like visiting — in fact, it’s one of the reasons they started the business in the first place.
“David and I used to come up here for years, and we didn’t know anybody — we camped out on this piece of land we bought. Now we know everybody,” Carmichael said. “Everything we do, we try to do beautifully to high standards. Frankly, there are easier ways to make money than food. … But it’s a love for us. We love it, and we love the people that are part of our community because of it.” 

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