Sportsmen's store unlikely stop for artisan fudge
National Fudge Day is June 16 and Cabela's is ready.
In what might be a little-known secret -- and then again, maybe not -- the sportsmen's paradise at Polaris takes the confection very seriously.
Cabela's, 1650 Gemini Place, has a recipe catalog of more than 50 flavors, 38 of which are offered daily.
They range from the traditional, such as chocolate, to the more exotic: red velvet, amaretto chocolate swirl and jalapeno.
The most popular options are peanut butter and chewy praline.
Anne Bauer, one of two fudge-makers at the store, said she's been making the rich treat since she was a little girl.
Bauer, who will be studying law at Ohio State University this fall, said when she applied for the job at Ca-bela's she had no idea she would be assigned to the store's cafe.
"They said, 'We want you to make fudge,' " she said. "I said, 'I'm so there.' "
And how does Cabela's fudge stack up against her homemade stuff?
"This is much better," she said.
One of the reasons, she said, is heat control. Cabela's uses two self-stirring kettles that are set up similar to a double-boiler and maintain a consistent temperature level.
They turn out 36 pounds, or six pans, per batch, each of which takes about 30 minutes to complete. It then takes a full day for the fudge to cool and set.
Cabela's uses Calico Cottage pre-mixed dry ingredients, although the store adds butter or sour cream and has some latitude to tweak the recipes, Bauer said.
Samples are free, but individual quarter-pound pieces are $3.50 and a six-piece box -- if you buy four you get two free -- is $14.
One might think that, as Cabela's plays to the rugged adventurer with its racks of camouflage clothing, guns, fishing gear and camping equipment, fudge would be the last specialty at the store.
Even the 46-seat cafe seems to salute the courageous eater by offering elk, wild boar and bison sandwiches.
But Derrek Shively, retail marketing manager for the Polaris Cabela's, said the explanation is simple: Fudge is a homey, rustic treat to which anyone can relate.
"Cabela's caters to more than just the hardcore hunter," Shively said.
Melissa Kinder, who runs the bakery at Smith Farm Market, which has locations on the Southeast Side of Columbus and in Gahanna, expects to see a bump in sales from National Fudge Day and Father's Day, which fall on the same date this year.
Kinder said her homemade fudge has been a big seller since she introduced it about six years ago when she took over the bakery.
"It's at least a top-five seller in our bakery, and we have lots of items," she said. "We probably have 600 to 800 items."
She sees fudge as somewhat of a lost art for the home cook, mainly because it's time consuming and difficult to maintain consistency.
Modern machinery has helped streamline the process for professional kitchens.
"When it's something that is one of your specialty items, you kind of do that to perfection," she said. "It comes out the same every single time."