When you think of Devon, what do you think of? The moor, the beaches? Cream teas, perhaps? Fudge? Quite probably.
Before I came here to live, Devon was somewhere that we came to on holiday as a family. And one of the holiday treats would be a bag of fudge; eking it out over the course of a few days, savouring its sugary sweetness, knowing that you would end up eating it far too quickly and then it would be gone. Even now, it still reminds me of boyhood summer holidays: days spent scampering about on the moor, eating ice creams, walking along the coast (and, lest we forget, days sat in a caravan listening to the sound of, what can only be described as, phenomenal rain hammering on the roof).
Before you worry that this has gone a bit Famous Five all of a sudden, let’s turn away from nostalgia-soaked remembrances of sunny summers of the past and return to the present.
Devon, like many counties in the UK, is still heavily reliant on tourism. 11% of total employment in Devon is related to tourism and is worth £2 billion to the local economy. Whatever they come to the West Country looking for from a holiday, many tourists want to spend at least part of their visit sinking their teeth into the sort of sweet treats that they probably wouldn’t buy at home. Luckily there are many local companies ready to oblige.
Back in January, at the Totnes Good Food market, we bought some clotted cream vanilla fudge from Cottage Confectionery. Mrs RB was halfway round the market before she realised I was missing; it didn’t take her long to track me down, working my way through the free fudge at their stall. Whilst I enjoyed the Christmas pudding fudge (which really did taste of Christmas pudding), January was possibly not the time for it. The vanilla was very moreish, so that was the bag that came home with us. My only regret was that it was only a small bag.
Suzy Sweet Tooth (a name that always strikes me as sounding a little more salacious than perhaps it should; it’s probably just me) is named for the lady who makes it: Suzy, stirring up crumbly, buttery fudge in her farmhouse in north Devon. It’s also award-winning: the clotted cream fudge winning Gold in the 2009 Taste of the West Awards and the stem ginger (which I have also tried, all in the name of research you understand) winning Gold the following year. This is very much of the hard, crumbly style of fudge. Something to get your teeth into and take a big, buttery bite out of. It’s tasty too, and seems to be well-stocked around the county, so look out for it if you’re one of the many holidaying down here.
The best-named fudge company in Devon though, is also the one that makes the best fudge. That’s in my humble opinion of course and is backed up by nothing more scientific than my taste buds. That, and the fact that Mrs RB, who claims not to like fudge that much, ate half a bar of this particular fudge when I wasn’t looking.
The Wonky Kitchen are based in Holsworthy in west Devon and offer both the traditional flavours (clotted cream, rum and raisin and so on) as well as some more unusual flavours. Their passion fruit fudge, for example, is really good: it is both sweet and buttery but also fruity, with a definite passion fruit hit to it. It’s not a strong fruit flavour, but it’s enough. It’s also a very soft, melt-in-the-mouth consistency, completely different from the crumbly fudge that Suzy Sweet Tooth makes.
If I’m honest, all that melt-in-the-mouth stuff may sound as though I’m coming on a bit strong. But it really was that good. If you would like to try it for yourself (to check if it was just the excess of sugar that has made me hyper-actively enthused and garrulous) then you will find the Wonky Kitchen at various local events or you can order directly from them using the magic of the internet. We visited the Wonky Kitchen stall at the Exeter Festival of Food and Drink, where they had the whole colourful range laid out to choose from, and it would have been rude not to have bought at least one bar. Their apple and elderflower fudge is also really good.
At the same festival we also bought some rhubarb and custard fudge. This batch had been freshly prepared that morning and was still slightly soft with a nice creamy texture. It really did taste like rhubarb and custard too, which was a nice surprise. I’m a little ashamed to mention this, but I now can’t remember who we bought this fudge from. If it was you, please come forward to receive your plaudits.
Last but not least, what would you say to marmite flavoured fudge? We are a family split down the middle in terms of the “love it” or “hate it” relationship with marmite. Mrs RB loves it and I cannot stand the stuff. Strangely though, we both liked the marmite flavoured fudge (bought from the Cootealicious stall at the recent TorqEat food festival in Torquay). The marmite gives a savoury hint that takes the edge off of the sweetness of the fudge; it works surprisingly well.
If this post has got your mouth watering, then why not rekindle some of that holiday spirit and grab yourself a bag of fudge? Go on, you know you want to.