You can, of course, make this with regular walnuts, but the black walnuts are special. 25 years ago my husband and I planted two black walnut trees. Nuts trees grow slowly, and decades passed with no nuts. A few years ago, a handful of nuts began to appear each year, but hardly anything worth harvesting----until 2011. This year, nuts rained down from the trees by the gallon. The husks will stain your hands a deep brown (they make an excellent dye), so we donned our rubber dish gloves and set to work. Now that the walnuts are husked, there's a long Maine winter ahead, time for cracking their famously hard shells with our Kenkel cracker. This winey, intense flavor of black walnuts makes this maple fudge especially delicious. —mainecook61
Butter a loaf pan. Combine maple and corn syrups, cream, and milk in a deep saucepan. (The syrup will rises several inches up the sides of the pan.) Cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 238 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer.
Remove the pan from the heat and set in a cool place until the mixture is lukewarm. You should be able to put your hand comfortably on the bottom of the pan when it is ready.
Beat the mixture using an electric mixer (or a wooden spoon if you're hardy) until the mixture begins to thicken and lose its shine. It will turn lighter. This may take up to ten minutes of mixing. Then, working quickly before it firms up, beat in the vanilla and add the walnuts. Spoon the fudge into the pan, using your fingers to smooth it out.
Cut the fudge into the size pieces you'd like, then set it aside for a few hours to firm up more.
I live in rural Maine, on a 160 acre farm. We've been organic gardeners here for almost 40 years. In addition to growing all of our vegetables and some fruits, we raise chickens(Freedom Rangers for meat, Buff Orpingtons for eggs), ducks (Pekins for meat, Indian Runners for eggs), and beef cattle. A neighbor keeps pigs on our land, as well, and a neighbor taps trees in the woods for his maple operation. Since we have lived here, in what used to be Zone 3, we've watched the date of the first killing frost move from mid-September to early October, a change of three weeks. Years ago we tried to plant peach trees, but the cold winters did them in. We just planted them again . . .