A very English summer fudge – Strawberries & Cream

It’s become a bit of a tradition at Wychbold Fudge that when Wimbledon starts, we make our Strawberries & Cream summer special. So in this blog, I thought I’d tell you how this lovely seasonal flavour started in the fields of a local farm and made its way to market.

The story begins at Bell’s Farm, Stourport – located about 10 minutes drive from Wychbold. It has a delightful farm shop and, more importantly for our purposes, you can Pick Your Own fruit there too.

bells farm shop
Bell’s Farm Shop, Stourport

So one bright, Tuesday morning in the middle of June, following a few days of nice sunny weather (perfect for ripening strawberries!), we made the short drive out to Bell’s to look for our favourite summer ingredient.

strawberry fields

The strawberry fields are located right next to the shop, so armed with a large cardboard box we set out to select just the right strawberries to make into fudge.

The important thing was to find strawberries that were nice and ripe as they break down more easily in the cooking. strawbsfield

Equally, we didn’t want them over ripe as the flavour wouldn’t be as strong and would be lost when the fudge was cooked.

So ripe, succulent strawberries – that’s what we were after and there were certainly plenty to be found!

We needed about 2kg of strawberries to make 6 trays of strawberries & cream fudge (or about 150 bars) – just about enough to last for Wimbledon fortnight.

After a couple of hours of selecting and picking (and of course tasting!) the perfect fruit, it was time to head into the shop to pay for our harvest, before heading home to prepare the strawberries for cooking.

strawbsbowlOnce home, we washed the fruit and removed the stalks, before slicing them in half. They were then popped in the fridge overnight, all ready to be cooked the next day – Wednesday is cooking day at Wychbold Fudge!

The next morning, the first job was to soften the strawberries ready to be made into fudge. We did this using our fudge kettle,  partially cooking the strawberries in there first so that we didn’t lose any of the flavour. The kettle heats to over 75 degrees C, so the strawberries soon broke down ready for the next stage.

Once the strawberries were soft, we then added our basic fudge ingredients of butter, sugar, milk and of course cream. The strawberries continued to cook in the fudge so that all of the delicious fruit was fully absorbed – including every drop of the fruit’s juices.

It took about 2 hours for the fudge to cook. s&ctrayThen, once it was ready, we poured the fudge into trays. The smell in our family kitchen by this stage was really something to savour – freshly cooked fudge, bursting with strawberries, adorning our kitchen table. It’s at times like that that we really appreciate being able to make our fudge at home!

The fudge then had to be left overnight to set. If we tried to cut the fudge before it was ready it would crack the surface of the fudge, and although the flavour wouldn’t have been affected, we like to make sure our fudge looks as good as it tastes! So we had to be patient…

Finally, the next day, just 48 hours after we were in the fields at Bell’s farm picking the strawberries, it was the moment of truth – the moment when we finally got to cut, and sample our wonderful summer special. Strawberries & Cream is that most English of summer flavours, and we weren’t disappointed with the result. It tasted every bit as good as we had hoped for!

 Strawberries&Cream

There is something really lovely about picking a fruit, taking it home, preparing it, cooking it and then cutting it ready to taste yourself and then ultimately share it with others. So with great excitement, we packed the first tray up ready to take to Droitwich Market the next day.

Of course the real test is what our customers think, so we were a little nervous as to whether they would share our enthusiasm. But we needn’t have worried – from the first person who tasted it the response was wonderful and by the end of that first market we’d sold every bar that we’d taken with us.

So just like last year, our summer special, Strawberries & Cream, has been a hit!

The good news for those customers who haven’t yet sampled this annual treat is that we still have some bars left, although this weekend will undoubtedly see the last couple of trays sold (you can order your Strawberries & Cream fudge for delivery  at www.wychboldfudge.co.uk ).

Thanks for reading!

Justin

Wychbold Fudge

Advertisements

How we make Wychbold Fudge.

 

I often get asked how we make our lovely, homemade fudge to the quality we do, in the quantities needed to meet demand. People often point out that other successful fudge makers inevitably have to move to large premises, and in so doing lose the homemade nature of their fudge.

Well we made a decision very early on that making our fudge in our own kitchen, in our own home, was the thing that would set us apart from other producers, and that we wouldn’t sacrifice that. This means that on occasion we have to turn down potential business from retail outlets as we just don’t have capacity – but we would rather do that than sacrifice what makes our fudge special!

So how DO we make it? Well, the one nod to technology that we have made is investing in a fudge kettle. This piece of equipment controls the fudge temperature for us – a crucial part in the fudge making process.

IMG_1650 (2)

We use it to help us make the fudge base, before we add all the wonderful ingredients that give us our full range of delicious flavours.

So into the fudge kettle go butter, sugar and milk, which are all then heated to the required temperate and mixed together.

This initial stage of the process takes approximately 1 hour, depending on the size of batch we’re making. Each full batch gives us about 150 bars of fudge, so to make enough fudge for large events it can take many hours just to give us sufficient fudge base.

Once the fudge base is ready, we pour about 8 cups worth into a mixing bowl – and it’s there that the magic really starts to happen!

IMG_1940At this stage we usually add the specific ingredients which give our fudge the wonderful flavours our customers love! We use natural ingredients – so whether it be natural peppermint oil or locally grown Bramley apples, the important thing is to keep the flavours fresh and lively.

Once the flavours are well and truly blended together, the next stage is to pour the fudge into trays ready to set or, for flavours where we’re combining different flavour fudges together such as mint chocolate, to be swirled together with the next batch.

Some flavours, such as rum & raisin, have further ingredients added once the fudge is in the trays (in the case of rum & raisin it’s the succulent rum-soaked raisins that get scrunched in at this point!).

Prepped traysWhere we have to combine two batches of fudge together, such as mint chocolate or chocolate orange, once the first flavour batch is in the tray (e.g. mint), we add the second batch (e.g. chocolate) on top then swirl the two flavours together. This gives the wonderful, colourful effect that makes our fudge so mouthwatering to look at!

While the method used adds considerable time to the process, the outcome is well worth the effort.

In case you’re wondering why we share this technique with people, it’s because we don’t mind prospective fudge makers knowing how to do this as fudge really can look as good as it tastes and it shouldn’t be a secret how to achieve this – after all, we’re all fudge lovers!

Once the fudge is in the tray, final ingredients added and swirling complete, it’s time for patience. We cover the fudge and leave it overnight in a cool dry place to set. Then we look forward to the best part of all – the cutting and tasting!

The next day, we remove the fudge from the trays and begin preparing it for sale. First of all we trim the rough edges and it’s those off cuts we use for tasting. We have to be VERY disciplined at this point as there are usually several trays to test and so we have to pace ourselves with the tasting – not easy if we have an exciting new flavour on the menu!

Assuming we’re happy with the flavour, we then proceed to cut the fudge into bars ready for sale. As the fudge is cut, the bars are put into cartons and then packed into storage boxes to be kept fresh until they’re needed for sale – usually the next day at market, or in some cases, immediately packed for an online customer. The fact that our fudge is served so fresh is one of the reasons the flavours taste so good – the fudge moves very quickly from our kitchen to the customer’s plate and because we only attend local events & markets, it literally hasn’t travelled far either! It all makes our fudge a truly fresh, local product!

Happy fudge making!

Justin

Wychbold Fudge

PS If you want to find out more about our fudge (or find out how to taste it for yourself!), then please visit our website at http://www.wychboldfudge.co.uk.

What do you do when you want to change career after 15 years?

Salt Fest 2015.png

Well the answer for me was to start my own business selling fudge. Which in turn led to me making my own fudge and selling that instead.

The truth is that after 15 years working with young offenders, including running some very successful projects, I really had no idea what else I could do. After I took voluntary redundancy, the question of “What next?” seemed almost unanswerable. I had some great skills in that particular line of work, but were they really transferable?

So when a former boss said to me “Why don’t you try running a market stall?” it felt like I’d entered the Twilight Zone – a realm where anything was possible but I had no real clue what I was actually doing.

After various discussions with various people, lots of pondering and eventually making some decisions, I found a man selling lovely handmade fudge in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The fudge tasted great and I thought that it would be nice to have a go buying it from him and selling it at the local market. Just to see what happened. So I started up Wychbold Fudge – buying & selling this luxury, handmade fudge and seeing where it led me.

Well it all went well enough, but after a few months I realised that as fun as it was, something was missing – something that would really make the whole thing personal to me. Something that would make the whole thing feel even better. So I started looking into how I could make my own fudge, in enough quantity and to a high enough standard that would allow me to turn an experiment into a viable long-term business that I could stay passionate about for years to come.

Which led me to buy a fudge kettle and get some training before embarking on the next phase of my Wychbold Fudge adventure – making my own, luxury, homemade fudge right here in the family kitchen.

And I’ve not regretted it for a moment. With great support (and understanding!) from my wife, and despite some tough weeks where I struggled to sell a bar of fudge, the business continues to grow. I’ve built a base of loyal customers who seem to really appreciate that I make every gorgeous piece at home, and slowly but surely this thing is growing to a point where the future feels really rosy.

Its a long way from working with young offenders – and I wouldn’t change it for a minute.

If you’re interested to read more about what I do at Wychbold Fudge, then please take a look at our website http://www.wychboldfudge.co.uk.

Thanks for reading!

Justin

Wychbold Fudge