What is the Difference Between Opera Fudge and Opera Caramels?
Opera Fudge Variety
Opera Fudge and Opera Caramels are chocolate covered sweets that have a soft center.
Fudge and caramel, are made by mixing sugar and milk ingredients – usually butter, milk, and sometimes, cream.
When describing various types of confectionaries, candy specialists refer to something called “mouthfeel”. This word means exactly what it should mean – how something feels in your mouth. Is it smooth? Is it grainy? Is it juicy? Is it dry? Is it solid? Is it creamy? Is it hard? Is it soft? And, so on!...
Opera fudge is a smooth, creamy and soft confectionary covered in chocolate.
Opera caramels are smooth, creamy and soft confectionaries covered in chocolate.
So, what is the difference? The difference is in the way opera fudge and opera caramels are made.
Both opera fudge and opera caramel were traditionally made between Thanksgiving (or autumn) and Easter (or spring).
Why? Because traditionally, kitchens didn’t have air conditioning. To successfully make opera fudge and opera caramels, you need to cool down the very hot mixture. If you put it into the refrigerator when cooling it, the mixture will dry out. This means, that the cooling process must take place in a cool room.
Both opera fudge and opera caramels are made from sugar and milk ingredients (butter, milk, cream).
For fudge, the sugar and milk ingredient mixture is stirred while slowly being heated until it reaches temperatures between 235Fo and 240Fo (114Co and116Co). At this point, the mixture is called “the soft-ball stage”. Next, the mixture is poured onto a cool surface – traditionally, this has been a marble slab – and allowed to cool down. Once cooled, the mixture is pulled, pressed and kneaded by hand until creamy. Finally, the fudge is formed into small shapes, dried and dipped in chocolate.
For caramel, the sugar is heated, without stirring, until it comes to a boil. Then, the milk ingredients are added. Once the milk ingredients are added, no stirring is done. The mixture is heated until it reaches temperatures between 245Fo and 250Fo (118Co and 121Co). At this higher temperature, more water evaporates and more sugar is dissolved. The mixture at this temperature is called “the firm-ball stage”. Finally, the mixture is poured into molds, cooled and dipped in chocolate.
The differences in how opera fudge and opera caramels are made may appear insignificant, but they provide for a very different mouthfeel.
The recipe for opera fudge and caramels provided above is meant for those who either enjoy their time in the kitchen or like to spend time perfecting details.
Beth Kimmerly, a guru of candy making, has said on her Candymonium blog (a new window will open) that she decided to make opera caramels “…because I liked the name. Opera caramels sounded like maybe they were concocted to make a mouth sing.” What an interesting comparison!
For those of you, who prefer attending the opera to dabbling in the kitchen, there is an easier solution.
There are a variety of ready-made fudges and caramels on the market – online and in stores. For example, you can buy the Polish krówki candies or Ukrainian korivka candies, unwrap them, carefully pierce them with a toothpick, dip them in melted chocolate and let dry on wax or parchment paper. Enjoy your own «homemade» opera fudge!
The most famous place to buy opera fudge is in Lebanon – no, not the country, but the City of Lebanon in Pennsylvania, USA. The fairy-tale story goes something like this:
There once was a very wealthy family, whose name was Coleman. The Coleman’s lived in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. People called them “Lebanon’s Royal Family”. The Coleman’s liked to travel to Philadelphia to attend the opera. One day, the Coleman’s cook decided to prepare a special treat for the ladies that they could eat during the opera’s intermission. And, that is how opera fudge came to be.
Two commercial companies make opera fudge in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Wertz Candies on Cumberland Street have been making opera fudge since the 1930s. Van Winkle’s on Guilford Street have been making opera fudge since the 1960s. Both companies claim that their fudge is unique (not part of the fairy-tale above) and can only be purchased in Lebanon County in the USA.
Of course, once you know what opera fudge is, you can indulge in it anywhere in the world. It might be called different names by different companies, but a sweet fudge center covered in chocolate is still opera fudge for the opera lover.
So that’s the story of opera fudge and opera caramel. But, where’s the operatic punch? Now, that is a story for another day. And, yes, there is indeed a story!