They say we produce the most potatoes per person in the world.
So Stanley MacDonald commented casually as we sat in the café at Prince Edward Island‘s potato museum, munching through cinnamon rolls (which, needless to remark, featured a little added potato in the dough). With 145,000 residents on PEI and a production of around 1.1 million tonnes annually, the assertion sounded perfectly plausible – an output of 7.5+ tonnes per person is a whole lot of spuds in anyone’s book.
With production in such quantities and with potatoes such an integral part of island life, it’s no great surprise that PEI should be home to a potato museum, one of the few in the world – reason enough for yours truly, and for the generally spud inclined, to visit. Head ‘up west’ to the community of O’Leary in the heart of PEI potato territory and you’ll find it – a giant spud marks the spot.
With origins as a community museum started around 1967, the establishment was developed into the potato museum in the 1990s and – with a great deal of voluntary effort from the likes of the aforementioned Stanley MacDonald and, he adds, no small amount of luck – it now extends to around 14,000 square feet. It incorporates the community museum, along with a collection of artefacts from the PEI potato industry through the years, as well as the comprehensive ‘Amazing Potato’ exhibit – inherited from Canada’s National Museum – on the broader history of the spud, plus a gallery of antique farm machinery, some dating from the 1850s.
They have, in the last three years, added a café to the museum – “best thing we ever did,” says Stan, as it brings in locals who might not otherwise have thought of stopping by – and features dishes made with PEI potatoes, from potato soup and baked potatoes to the Canadian classic of poutine and even potato ice cream (which I regretfully did not get to try).
The café also features potato fudge, by which I was also – somewhat predictably – intrigued, and Joanne from the museum’s café kindly mixed up a batch for me while I was there. As it turns out, there was no great mystery to it but, rather, a small amount of mash, a lot of chocolate and a considerable amount of sugar. One to play with for the spud repertoire at home.
Chocolate Potato Fudge
This is fudge as inspired by that which you can see being made – as I did – at the Canadian Potato Museum on PEI. The recipe used at the museum is taken from the book One Potato, Two Potato, a collection of potato recipes by PEI resident Janet Reeves, and very simply adds melted butter and chocolate, along with some vanilla, to a small amount of mashed potato and a lot of icing sugar. The mixture is then chilled in the fridge to firm it up.
I have used the same method here as in the original but I have adjusted the relative quantities of the ingredients, using more potato and considerably less icing sugar. The result is not as sweet – though still plenty sweet enough – and has a softer, fudgier texture than the museum’s fudge, and is best kept in the fridge. As an optional extra, I’ve added a very light sprinkling of good quality salt crystals, which gives the fudge an extra little lift.
And to answer the usual question that people have about sweet things that feature potato as an ingredient, there’s a little graininess of texture but no, you don’t taste the potato – the chocolate and vanilla take care of that. Do make sure that the potato is well mashed, though – or better still, riced – so that you don’t end up with any stray lumps of spud.
- Makes around 24 bite-sized pieces of fudge & takes approx. 15 min to prep + 1 hour to chill
- 50g butter
- 100g good quality dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 100g plain mashed potato (no added butter / milk)
- 75g icing sugar, sifted
- some good quality salt, such as fleur de sel, to sprinkle on top (optional)
You’ll also need:
- 24-30 sweet cases (about 2.5cm diameter ea.) if you want to make individual bites of fudge, or alternatively, a shallow dish or tin in which to chill the fudge mixture
- Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of hot (but not simmering) water and over a very low heat. Add the butter and, once it has started to melt, add the chocolate pieces and allow them to melt together gently, stirring constantly. Alternatively, they can be melted using short bursts of microwave power.
- Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate has melted and stir in the vanilla.
- Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the mashed potato and sifted icing sugar and mix together well, either by hand or using an electric mixer. The mixture will have a loose dropping consistency.
- Use the fudge mixture to fill individual sweet cases or pour into a shallow dish. Sprinkle very lightly with some fleur de sel or other good quality salt if desired, and place in the fridge for at least an hour or two to become firm. The mixture will start to soften again if left at room temperature for any length of time, so it’s best kept in the fridge or eaten, which shouldn’t be a problem.
- Of course you can use milk chocolate instead of the dark chocolate here. You could also add some finely chopped, toasted walnuts to the mixture if you like, or perhaps some chilli flakes if you care to take your chocolate in a spicy direction.