Homemade Holiday Candy, Christmas Recipes and Holiday Gift Basket Ideas

Homemade Holiday Candy, By Teresa Opdycke - The joys of the holidays have always included not just eating sweet treats, but the actual making of homemade candy. We would all get together on a cold day in December to share ingredients, funny stories, and memories as our mother shared her expert candy making techniques. For awhile after my mother passed on we continued the tradition of bonding over sugary, chocolaty, sweet creations that tickle the tongue. As we each grew in ways that no one would ever believe possible, we left behind the sweet tradition. It was indeed a wonderful time and I highly recommend getting a few family members or friends together to not just make, but celebrate the holidays with the charming tradition of candy making. The recipes we used came from our mother and from her mother and one from my father. It’s time to turn on the Christmas music, get out the bowls, spatulas and candy thermometer. It’s time to make Christmas candies.


Never a favorite of mine, but my sister loved and still loves divinity and makes this candy every year. I’m a chocolate freak, but she’s a lover of the creamy, smooth textured swirls of this divine homemade candy. My mother always admonished us with these bits of advice: If it’s raining or wet outside your divinity will not set up and may be sugary. Do not ever touch the side of the bowl with your wooden spoon or spatula; the results will be sugary candy.

2 cups sugar
½ cup of white Karo
½ cup of water
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped or whole English walnuts or pecans
Boil sugar, Karo, and water together until a little dropped in water turns brittle. (I’ll be perfectly honest here, I’ve never done this. I watched my mother do it many times. So I wish you well!) Pour the syrup over stiffly beaten egg whites. Add chopped nuts if you desire and the vanilla. Beat until your arm feels like it’s going to fall off or the mixture begins to hold a shape. Drop on a buttered platter or parchment paper. Place one pecan or English walnut on top. Color can be added to the white froth for a festive look.

Chocolate Fudge or Mom’s Millionaire

I have no idea why she called this recipe simply millionaire, perhaps because she thought it tasted like a million bucks and so it does. It’s a very rich fudge that comes out creamy and if death by chocolate seems appropriate to you, then you’ll love this recipe. Over the years I’ve toned my chocolate fudge down a bit.

1 pound of chocolate stars (Brach’s makes these star shaped chocolates)
2 packages of tidbits (most people call these chocolate chips, I recommend Nestle’s)
8 ounce jar of marshmallow cream
4 cups granulated sugar
1 can Pet’s Evaporated Milk (I use Carnation, but to this day my sister insists Pet’s is the only canned milk to use for this recipe)
In a large bowl place all the chocolate stars, chocolate chips, and marshmallow cream. (Expect fingers to dip in for a quick taste of chocolate.) In a pan on medium heat add sugar and milk. Bring these ingredients to a boil. Boil for four and a half minutes. Remove from stove and pour over the chocolates. Stir! Stir fast and furious before the fudge begins to set up. I do hope you have an 8x9 pan buttered and ready to pour the fudge into. You might need another small pan; too, depending on how thick you want your pan of fudge to be. You can add nuts to the chocolate in the bowl if your family enjoys nutty fudge. Now for the best part…lick the bowl. There’s nothing more delightful than warm fudge! By the way this recipe makes around 4 pounds of fudge, plenty to give away as gifts.

Peanut Butter Fudge

I enjoy peanut fudge as long as it’s dipped in chocolate. It is a favorite among true peanut butter connoisseurs though and you might enjoy trying it. I’m sure my mother doubled and quadrupled this recipe, there were six of us, there is no way that one pan of fudge would have survived the holiday onslaught of sweet teeth.

2 cups brown sugar
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup peanut butter
Boil sugar and milk until it forms a soft ball when tested in cold water. (I’m not sure, but I think that means it should be syrupy and then set up when it comes in contact with cold water. Fudge making was never an exact science at our house) Once it’s tested, let the mixture cool, add peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until creamy and then pour into a buttered pan.


My father’s favorite fudge was penuche, a brown sugar concoction that was always somewhat sugary. Sometime during the holidays he would suddenly decide it was time to make penuche. Off he’d go to the kitchen to make his favorite homemade candy. I have never tried my hand at this fudge, but please be my guest and I hope you find it to be as delicious as he did.

2 cups brown sugar
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter
I have no instructions on how to make penuche. I suggest trial and error with a hearty good luck!

These are just a few of my family’s favorite homemade candy recipes. There were many more that we welcomed into the fold like Buckeyes, chocolate covered cherries, pulled taffy, peanut brittle, and white bark. Looking back I don’t think it was the candy that made it all so grand, but the special memories that we created as we stirred, mixed, rolled, and dipped. At the end of the day we each took home containers filled to the brim with candies made from more than just ingredients, made with love. My wish for you is that you discover a wondrous way to celebrate the holidays with family and friends that leaves you with precious holiday memories.
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