It’s almost impossible to say the words “Mackinac Island” without tagging “fudge” on the end. And despite the fact that the awesome treat has become synonymous with its island namesake, it was not invented there. However, the Mackinac Island fudge we all know and love – it’s crazy delicious – is available pretty much everywhere (thanks, Internet for the fudge!). This was not always the case. Shortly after the Civil War, travelers came to Mackinac with expectations of new, local, flavors – not just the same old treats they could get in their neck of the woods. Harry Murdick soon met their expectations with rich fudge made right in his shop window. He even had fans blowing the scent of fudge out onto the street! If you’re looking for a mouthwatering Michigan gift this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with some fudge!
There are 18 fudge shops on Mackinac Island alone, with most having additional locations on the mainland. Each has their own style that makes them special. Here are a few of my favorites:
The fudgemakers at JoAnn’s Fudge live on Mackinac Island year round, which means that even in the winter, when Lake Michigan is frozen and the island is effectively cut off from the mainland, the fudge still finds its way to eager tummies everywhere. “Our fudge is creamier! We use all natural ingredients – nothing artificial. Get your web orders in soon. We can only make so much for the holidays and when it’s gone, it’s gone!” said Sue McQuaid of JoAnn’s Fudge.
Murdick’s fudge has been around the longest, with a short break during the great depression.
May’s Candy Shop Kept the Mackinac Island tradition alive through the great depression. They are currently closed for the winter and will reopen in May.
Ryba’s makes some of the best fudge to be had anywhere. Check out their Oreo fudge – it’s my favorite!
It may not come from Mackinac Island, but the Sweet Shop in Cadillac has been churning out delectable fudge for 50 years! Janeen Russell, who took over the family business from her mother and father, speaks about her fudge with a tangible enthusiasm. “Our fudge is made in a double boiler like Grandma used to use – it makes the fudge smoother.” The Sweet Shop is not afraid of thinking outside of the fudge box either. Don’t be surprised to see watermelon fudge with chocolate chip seeds, root beer fudge, and carmel apple fudge on offer.
And finally, although Kilwin’s hails from Petoskey, it’s still well worth a taste!
Each year, the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival celebrates the chocolatey goodness. In fact, the fudge of Mackinac Island is so outstanding that historian Phil Porter even wrote a book about Mackinac Island’s “Sweet Souvenier.” It is available online at Mackinac State Historic Parks.
-Nathan Smathers, Feature Writer