Family Favorites · My Roots · Nicaragua

Guest Post: Nicaraguan Cocoa Beans + Gamma’s Fudge Recipe = New Nicaraguan Tradition?

My sister-in-law, Betty, gets all the credit for making my trip to Nicaragua a reality. Betty has kindly shared the following information about her Mother’s (Gamma’s) Fudge Recipe and her introduction of the recipe to Nicaraguan families in San Ramon, using local, ground cocoa beans.
Cocoa Beans in Nicaragua


My Mother had a way with Hershey’s cocoa powder.  It was a cupboard staple, allowing a host of unique concoctions to be served in our family kitchen.  There was chocolate gravy, made in a skillet from a roux of flour, sugar, and cocoa powder laced with milk and butter.  It had a certain satin sheen when ready to be served for our before-school breakfast. Yikes!  There was also an ugly chocolate pie, made with cocoa powder, sugar and butter pats folded simply into pastry and baked.  Yum!  Nothing, however, competed with her five-ingredient fudge, ready in 20 minutes if one of the family developed an after-dinner sweet tooth.  We didn’t often have layered cakes or fruit pies, but we had fudge to die for.
Gamma’s Fudge in Nicaragua
Family legend says that during the Depression and the rationing of sugar, that the prized candy was coveted – so much so that a sad tale is told that while “beating the mixture” the sauce pan capsized into the dirty kitchen sink while Mother attended to a baby’s wailing – only to have the cry equaled by the disappointed older brother, Karl, who awaited the prized fudge.
Most of the family still loves Gamma’s Fudge, especially thinking of it and Buttermilk Fudge at Christmas-time when she carefully rationed it among families. I’ve made it for kids and grandkids.  I even made it with Nicaraguan women when we recently visited, with Cathy,  in the small town of San Ramon.  Processed chocolate candy is not affordable to the locals, so I taught three different households how to make fudge using their own ground cocoa beans, their local sugar and dairy and butter or margarine.  Thankfully, vanilla extract was for sale, a spoonful at a time, at one of the many tiny shops lining the four streets of San Ramon.  The fudge was a big hit – and I am hoping some were able to make it into a cottage industry – or maybe just into a new family tradition.
Teaching Fudge Making in one Nicarguan home
Teaching Fudge Making in a second Nicaraguan Home


In a saucepan, combine:
2 C. sugar
1 C. milk
4 T. cocoa

Heat over medium-high heat, stirring to blend until the mixture reaches a boil. Then adjust heat to maintain a low boil. Check mixture frequently until it begins to thicken, but do not stir too vigorously as the mixture will turn grainy. After about 15 minutes, check to see if the mixture forms a ball when a teaspoonful is dropped into a glass or cool water. When you are sure the chocolate ball is forming and there is loss of brightness to the mixture, turn off heat, then add:
4 T. butter or margarine
1 T vanilla or vanilla extract
Hand beat the mixture within the tilted saucepan until it thickens and forms folds when dropped from spoon back into the mixture. When very hard to beat, pour the mixture on a plate that has been greased with a little margarine. Let stand for 30 minutes before cutting into 1-inch squares.

If for some reason the fudge does not harden, use the crumbles as chips in cookies or as sprinkles on top of ice cream. This recipe can also be used to make a fudge sauce when reheated with a little milk or cooking stopped before the mixture is at hard-stage.



Simple ingrediente de 5 Fudge

En una cacerola, combine
2 C. azúcar
1 taza de leche
4 T. cacao

  • Calienta a fuego medio-alto, revolviendo ocasionalmente para mezclar, hasta que la mezcla llegue a hervir. A continuación, ajuste de calor para mantener a fuego bajo, para comprobar si la mezcla de chocolate, cuando cayó en el agua, forma un grupo de bolas. Asegúrese de no mezclar con demasiada frecuencia, sin embargo, como se puede convertir en dulces granulada.
  • Cuando uno está seguro de que el chocolate es la combinación de una pelota, así como la pérdida de su brillo, apagar el fuego, añadir
    • 4 T. mantequilla o margarina
    • 1 T de vainilla o esencia de vainilla
  • Mano batir la mezcla hasta que espese y forma pliegues cuando se deja caer por cucharada de nuevo en su mezcla. Cuando muy difícil de batir, vierta la mezcla en una placa que ha sido untada con un poco de margarina.
  • Deje reposar durante 30 minutos, luego se corta en cuadrados de 1 pulgada.
  • Si por alguna razón no se endurecen, se derrumba como el uso de las cookies o en helados. También se podría utilizar como una salsa de recalentamiento con un poco de leche.

Sin embargo, esta consta de 5 ingredientes simples y la clave es cómo late el tiempo suficiente que sólo “establece” una vez que se vierte en el plato.


Family Favorites · My Roots

Fresh Gooseberry Cobbler…worth the effort once a year

Gooseberry…a prickly bush with hard green fruit, very sour to the taste.  These green gems were not in my fruit repertoire growing up in Iowa.  When I moved to St. Joseph, MO after college, I was introduced to them but not a big fan. When I met my husband, and his Mother (referred to as Gamma), I was quickly educated on the value of the meager gooseberry.  They coveted a rare can of gooseberries at the grocery store for a pie or cobbler, toting a few cans back to relatives in North Carolina.

When we bought our home several years ago, we HAD to plant a gooseberry bush. Little did I know how prickly these bushes were, until our first harvest.  My arms looked like I had been attacked by a herd of cats.  Now it was time to clean the gooseberries. Holy smokes…it took flippin’ forever!  Each gooseberry has a stem and a brown beard (my term) that need to be removed from the berry. I LOVED it when Gamma visited during gooseberry season. She was content to sit in the shade and do ‘the dirty work’ of cleaning these little devils.  Missin’ you Gamma and not just at Gooseberry time!

I was happy to take it from here and make the gooseberry pie or cobbler, drowning the filling in white sugar to mask the very sour gooseberry flavor. The end result is a very tasty, unique, seasonal dessert.  The fresh gooseberry cannot be matched by a can of gooseberries, but will do if you are having tremendous gooseberry cravings.

This year, I decided to tackle the gooseberry harvest alone.  My 9-year-old Golden Retriever, Joe, decided to help.  His idea of ‘help’ is to guard the berries and then help himself to a gooseberry or two from the harvest.  I truly thought one bite of gooseberry would quickly send him off to another part of the yard.  I was wrong.  Joe LOVES fresh, sour, crunchy, gooseberries.  Silly boy!

For the two quarts of gooseberries needed to make the cobbler, it took over 2 hours of cleaning. Good thing I had a movie to watch!  Cleaning is the hard part, but making the cobbler itself is easy, peasy.  I split the recipe into two smaller pans so I could share one pan with others and save one pan for family.

Gooseberries…worth the effort…once a year (or so)!



1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 quarts Gooseberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter


2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

  • Mix sugar, flour and salt; combine with berries and lemon juice. Pour into a greased 13x9x2″ baking pan; dot with butter.








  • Place in a preheated hot oven (400 degrees) about 15 minutes; be sure that mixture is hot and bubbling.
  • In the meantime, mix the topping. Sift together 2 cups flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add milk and slightly beaten egg to dry ingredients. Stir with fork to blend well.
  • Remove hot fruit mixture from oven. Drop topping mixture onto hot berries, making 12 biscuits.

  • Return to hot oven (400 degrees); bake about 20 minutes, or until biscuits are browned.  Serve warm with ice cream.