Aunt Ev, or as she was known by the younger generation, Grandma Barr, passed away on December 13th, just two days shy of her ninety-seventh birthday. She was born in Lanesville, West Virginia, eleventh out of twelve children, but raised her own family in the town of Parsons (where my brother-in-law was also born.) When I read through her obituary that my sister forwarded to me, I was astounded by her accomplishments; President of the Holly Meadows 4-H and a member of the Farm Women's Club, received credentials to be a substitute teacher in the public schools, a notable tailor/seamstress, and a long standing member of the United Methodist Church, where she was named "Mother of the Year" at the United Methodist Women's Conference. The little town of Parson's was the center of the Big Flood of 1985 and it was Aunt Ev and Uncle Dale, who opened up their home to five families in need of refuge during that disaster; just one example of her charitable heart to others.
I've only met Aunt Ev once when I accompanied my sister and mother to Parsons for a weekend trip. Before we left to return home she wanted us stop by for what she termed a "snack before we hit the road!" However, when we arrived at her home, the table was covered with a banquet of food, as if half the town was showing up! My sister said that's how it always was...she made a little of everything to make sure everyone was happy and filled up.
This recipe actually is from her dear friend Poke Roy, but Aunt Ev made it all the time and my sister said it was the most amazing candy. No one is sure where the name Hootch came from. I have some ideas since it reminds me of a candy I made with my mother called Penuche fudge.
This fudge is made with brown sugar, but the taste is similar to Hootch and of course, I couldn't help but notice Penuche (pronounce Panooch) and Hootch, sounds familiar. All I know is that I too am in love with this candy, so don't be frightened off by the ingredients. I know Kelly would say, "Mom...really a pint of Karo Syrup!" But, it's Christmas and a little indulgence is allowed.
Poke Roy's HOOTCH (from Aunt Ev)
1 1/2 cups (12 oz can) of Evaporated Milk (not Sweetened Condensed!)
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter
2 cups (1 pt.) Light Karo Syrup
Dash of Salt
6 cups granulated sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Equipment: Candy thermometer
Butter a 9" x 12" baking pan.
In a heavy 6-quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring the evaporated milk, butter, Karo syrup and salt to a boil. Add the sugar and chopped walnuts all at once, stirring to dissolve and return to a boil.
Lower the temperature to Low and continue with a "real slow" boil until the mixture reaches Soft Ball Stage on your candy thermometer. This is the tricky part; on my sister's thermometer (and in Aunt Ev's notes) 230F-degrees is listed, but on my thermometer it reads 240F-degrees. The first time I made this, I went with the 230F and I had a "peanut butter" consistency instead of fudge. So, I dumped that mixture and started over adhering to the Soft-Ball Stage. Also, when I checked my candy recipes for fudge, they all said 240F-degrees was needed, so that's what I went with and had success.