Last week whilst making fudge, I found myself thinking about homemade honeycomb. Fudge... honeycomb... they somehow seem to go together. So I thought, maybe I should find a recipe and give it a go. Actually, I have at least one memory of making honeycomb before; with my grandma and she was definitely the one in charge on that occasion as I think I was probably about 12 at the time. But having dredged up that memory it struck me that rather than googling for a recipe I decided to pull my grandma's recipe book out of the cupboard and see if I could find that very same recipe.
When my grandma had died 17 years ago I had inherited her recipe books. Back then I liked cooking just enough to appreciate these books and to take them into my care. I'm glad I did - they seem to have become more valuable to me with time as I have grown to appreciate them even more. Mostly, the recipe books are ancient published books, including 2 volumes of Delia recipe books from the early 1970s when "The Delia Effect" was slightly less impressive than it is these days. But amongst them is my grandma's handwritten recipe book. This she started as a school exercise book back in her cooking classes, aged about 14. The handwriting was neat and the layout followed strict instructions. The first page has been marked by a now long-dead teacher in red pencil and dated 15/10/1936.
Then, about half way through the book, the now adult version of my grandma continues adding recipes to her old school book but now in her loose, untidy handwriting with little attention to the layout. These are her own recipes for her own use, not to be approved and marked by a teacher. I just love to see her handwriting and the occasional comments such as "lovely" next to a recipe cutting from a magazine pasted onto a page.
And there on page 68 I find the recipe for honeycomb - that very one from my memory. As is so often the case, the recipe is somewhat on the vague side but clear enough for me so I decide to give it a go. It all seems very straight forward but my friends warn me that making honeycomb can be tricky and can result in failures. Nonetheless, with my newfound fudge expertise, I get on with it, following my grandma's written instructions (although wishing she were there to guide me through it as I go).
But then disaster... it turned brown and I took it off the heat but whilst I was fiddling around measuring bicarbonate of soda the caramel continued to cook and as I stirred in the bicarb I could see that it had burnt. Yuk! On cooling it tasted like burnt coffee beans! Ho hum... we learn from our mistakes so I tried again, this time removing it from the heat at an earlier stage, adding the bicarb in a rush and getting it out of the pan as quickly as I could. Aha! Second time lucky!
When it was cooled, we broke it into bits, melted some chocolate and dipped each piece into it. Later, when the chocolate had set we wrapped a few pieces individually in cellophane, doing the same with the pieces of fudge we had made. Then my daughters filled old coffee jars with our homemade sweets and we designs some labels on the computer. Job done, 4 beautiful Christmas gifts for 4 very lucky teachers.
I have to admit that I'm pleased with the result. The jars of sweets look fantastic and the sweets inside taste great too. I am also pleased that I managed to make honeycomb and that I had done so from my grandma's book. My eldest spotted the date in the recipe books and said "Wow, you should take that to the Antiques Roadshow!" I smile, looking at the tatty, heavily stained book and wonder what value an antiques expert would place on it. Well, to me, it is priceless!