Since I got Gran’s old recipe book from my mum (which I’ve written about here) I’ve been thinking about making tablet – that terrifically sweet Scottish concoction that resembles fudge, but with more bite.
Growing up, tablet-making was my dad’s preserve. It only used to happen when Mum was out and was quite a ritual. Like most sweet-making, it’s very time-consuming and labour-intensive. The mixture has to be watched over carefully and stirred often, to stop it catching and burning. I remember the anticipation as my brothers and I hung around the kitchen waiting for the glossy, golden sweet to cool down enough to cut and eat.
A few years ago, when a few neighbours and I began to exchange home-made goodies as Christmas tokens, I decided that tablet-making should become part of our Christmas ritual. Realising that I didn’t have a recipe, I searched the internet and found a few variations on what I remembered my dad doing. The results were ok – definitely edible – but never up to Dad’s standard. For whatever reason, the tablet I was making was always too soft and a bit chewy – not crunchy like it’s meant to be.
So I was really excited to find – on the tattiest, most stained page of Gran’s book – the tablet recipe my dad always used. And it differs in one significant way from all the other recipes I’ve seen in that the condensed milk is added only when the basic sugar and butter mixture has boiled for 10 minutes.
Since it is Christmas, and I needed something to box up as little gifts, the boy-child and I decided to give it a go.
And it all started really well. I got the butter, sugar and milk boiling away nicely then added the condensed milk. So far, so good.
At this stage, the mixture is meant to boil for 20 minutes. I don’t know whether I had the gas turned up too high, or just needed to stir it more, but it began to catch and when I did stir it, there were little flecks of over-caramelised sugar (ok, burned).
Feeling a bit dejected, I was ready to throw it all out when the boy-child intervened.
Having been promised his grandfather’s legendary tablet, he was a bit reluctant to let me abandon the project. After letting a spoonful cool in water he announced that it wasn’t actually burned and tasted ok.
Problem was it looked pretty awful and I couldn’t help feeling it would only get worse with more cooking. But the boy-child is nothing if not pragmatic. He suggested adding cocoa to disguise the discoloration and finishing the cooking process – as an experiment.
We did, it worked and the resulting chocolate fudge went down well at the skatepark apparently.
While I love chocolate, I’m not so fond of chocolate flavoured things, so although I’ve tried some to test the texture (definitely more like the tablet I remember), I’m going to have to make another batch sometime to satisfy my need for that little taste of my childhood.
Swiss Milk Tablet
2 lbs granulated sugar
1/4 lb butter
1 tin Swiss Milk (sweetened condensed milk)
1/4 pt milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
1. Melt butter and sugar in milk, then boil for 10 minutes.
2. Add Swiss milk and, stirring carefully, boil until a little hardens when it is dropped in cold water (20 mins).
3. Flavour, stir well and pour into greased tin.
4. Mark when almost cold.