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Her father's fudge recipe brings back childhood memories of the Midwest

Jan Kincaid Clifford
Collage by NPR

All Things We're Cooking is a series featuring family recipes from you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We'll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.


Not many recipes can promise a mini workout, but with 11 minutes of constant stirring, that is exactly what you get when you make Pete Kincaid's fudge.

It also takes a lot of patience to stir and watch over the boiling pot of butter, sugar and evaporated milk. But Jan Kincaid Clifford, Kincaid's daughter, said he had that patience, which is why the recipe is named after him.

"He wasn't a cook, but every year he would make this fudge," Clifford said. "We didn't grow up with much and we didn't have much, but this was a way for him to make something to give to people at the holiday time."

Kincaid was in charge of the vocational programs for the public school district where the family lived near Chicago. He was highly regarded for his work, Clifford said, and a gift from him was not taken lightly.

Out of her brother, mom and dad, Clifford is the only member of her family still living. Today she lives just outside Los Angeles, in South Pasadena, Calif. When she makes the fudge now, she said, she thinks back to their Midwest home and the days when she was not yet tall enough to reach the stove. She would get a boost from a wooden stool her brother made in high school woodshop class.

"I would stand on the stool, and I would stir it and stir it and stir it," Clifford recalled. "It just reminds me of where I came from. I try never to forget. I live in such a different place now, and I have such a different life than what I grew up with."

Clifford has tried to get her three adult children to make the fudge, but they are more interested in eating it, she said. But she believes at some point that will change.

"They will carry it on in some way, and they're very proud too," she said. "When it's put out, it's kind of like they know that that's Grandpa, you know, that's my dad. And that's what's wonderful about it."

Butter is an essential ingredient in Kincaid's recipe, and Clifford said substitutes such as margarine will not work. Otherwise, generic ingredients work just as well as brand names. But if you want to make more than one batch, you'll need to channel Kincaid's patience because you cannot double the recipe. It becomes too sugary, Clifford said.

And while 11 minutes of constant stirring may seem like a lot, the end product is one everyone loves, Clifford said.

"It's full of sugar and it's full of butter and, of course, that's what makes it delicious."


  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk (regular or fat-free)
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 12 ounce package chocolate chips (semisweet, milk chocolate or a mixture of both)
  • 2 cups nuts (optional; walnuts or pecans recommended)


Mix sugar, butter and evaporated milk together in a deep, stove-top pot. Bring to a roiling boil, then cook over medium heat for 11 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove fudge from heat and add marshmallows, chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well. Pour the mixture into a buttered pan or lipped cookie sheet. Let set at room temperature. Cut and enjoy! This recipe makes approximately 5 pounds.

Serving suggestions: After the fudge has cooled, cut and wrap individual pieces in foil and refrigerate or freeze for a fun treat. Or, place a piece of fudge in a coffee mug and pour espresso over it — yum!

(Do not attempt to double this recipe. It will likely turn to sugar, and the fudge will not completely "set.")

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.

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