WILLIAMSBURG — The scent of sugar wafts through the air as Isaac Collins uses a large wooden spoon to mix fudge in a copper kettle.
Minutes later, he pours the fudge onto a marble table. Working in a circle, Collins walks around the table, using large wooden paddles to move the fudge around. Swapping the paddles for metal spatulas, he continues to mix the fudge as it takes on a creamy consistency.
It’s a typical morning at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at Tanger Outlet Center, but this isn’t a typical batch of fudge. This fudge will be sent to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s Fudge for Troops program.
Every year in July, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchises have the option of participating in the company’s annual fundraiser for American soldiers. For every pound of fudge purchased in July, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory will donate one pound of fudge to be included in care packages overseas.
For Collins, who took ownership of the Tanger store in July, the program was a great incentive his first month as a business owner.
“I have a really good friend in the military and I wanted to help out, but I didn’t know how to show my appreciation for everything our troops do,” he says. “This seemed like one way to say thank you.”
His customers had the same idea. In fact, Collins’ store will ship 669 pounds of fudge to U.S. troops; the largest amount of fudge any Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in the country will donate this season.
“Our goal was 400 pounds,” Collins says. “Being my first year, I didn’t really know what to expect.”
The store’s previous owner had participated in previous years, so some customers returned last summer specifically to purchase fudge for the program. “Some people were stunned when we told them about it,” Collins says. “They didn’t believe we’d actually do it.”
But he did. Already, Collins has made 448 pounds of fudge for troops stationed in bases across the globe. The program partners with Blue Star Moms and Cookie Crumbs to ensure that the generosity of all Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory customers makes its way into care packages that include cookies, candy and other comforts from home.
“I included my card with each pound of fudge and have received some emails and letters of thanks,” Collins says.
Collins only needs to make another 221 pounds of fudge to fulfill his store’s commitment. Recently, though, Collins decided to make and donate more fudge after receiving an email from Cookie Crumbs, an organization that regularly sends treats to military personnel.
“I think it’s just the homemade factor,” says Hannah Strasser, one of Collins’ employees. “It’s easy to go out and buy a present, but with food, you put more thought into it. It’s personal.”
Want to make your own food gifts this holiday season? Here are some recipes to get you started:
In a mixing bowl, combine the dried mushrooms, onion flakes, garlic powder, dried thyme, and parsley and mix well. Add the rice and toss, making sure all of the ingredients are evenly combined. Pour the rice into a jar and seal tightly.
Include these directions on the jar: For 4 servings, combine 2 1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice mix in a medium saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve hot with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes enough for 12 servings.
In small bowl, mix dry milk, creamer and powdered sugar. In another small bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Spoon milk and tea mixtures alternately into 8-ounce jar, packing lightly.
Include these directions on package: For each serving, place 1/4 cup Chai Mix in cup. Fill with 8 ounces very hot water. For creamier chai, use half milk and half water. Makes 4 servings.
Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook: 1500 Recipes for the Way You Cook Today (Betty Crocker; Sept. 27, 2011)
In a large roasting pan stir together oil, sugar and cinnamon. Add pretzels; toss well to combine. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degree F oven for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 12 cups