Clustered in the small downtown of an island whose total circumference is only 8 miles, Mackinac's fudge-making industry dates back to 1887 when island candy-maker Newton Murdick discovered that the combination of the island's characteristically low-barometric pressure and the marble slab he used to set his hand-dipped chocolates would make perfect fudge.
In the 1960's Harry Ryba brought his fudge shops to the islands, and showman that he was, set his fudge makers in front of a glass window so everyone could watch the tantalizing operation. Since then, it's become tradition among the fudge companies to create their sweet treat in full view of passersby.
You smell it the minute your ferry docks at Mackinac Island: the warm, sweet, intoxicating scent of fudge wafting from the island's fudge shops: Joann's Fudge (906-847-3707); May's Candy Shop (906-847-3832); Murdick's Fudge (906-847-3530); Ryba's (906-847-4065); Murray Hotel Company (800-462-2546).
Stop in front of the big plate glass window – or better yet, slip inside the door – of any fudge shop to inhale the heady, sweet air as the sugar, heavy cream, butter or other shortening, chocolate and other flavorings cook in a shiny 25-gallon copper kettle. When the mixture boils, watch as the fudge makers pour it into a metal frame set on a marble slab until it thickens. After they remove the metal frame the fun really begins. The makers stroke the batter back and forth across the marble, working first with a large spade and then a smaller one, until the fudge sets in a loaf. Finally, measuring by the eye, the fudge maker cuts the loaf into half-pound slices. A professional, they say on the island, is correct to within two-hundredths of a pound.
Your only remaining task? Pick your flavors. Heavenly Goo from Murray's Hotel Fudge Company? Ryba's Chocolate No Nut? Triple Chocolate from May's? It doesn't matter. If the fudge is made on Mackinac Island, it's going to be good.
Elizabeth Edwards is managing editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. [email protected]
Note: This article was first published in June 2006, and was updated for the web February 2008.