Giveaway: Celebrate National Fudge Day with Pure Michigan

Mackinac Island is world-famous for its fudge, and with National Fudge Day coming up on Sunday, June 16th, we thought it seemed fitting to celebrate.

The sweet and creamy treat has been a staple on the island for more than a century – ever since Harry Murdick opened the first fudge shop in Michigan on Mackinac Island in the late 1880s. Today, Mackinac Island is home to seven different fudge confectioners with several locations of each on the island.

Here are just a few other reasons why Mackinac Island fudge is Pure Michigan:

  • Mackinac Island is home to more than 15 fudge shops within a 3.8 square mile radius.
  • Each summer, visitors flock to the historic Northern Michigan destination and bring back a sweet souvenir – more than 10,000 pounds of fudge leave the island each day during travel season. 
  • Many fudge shops on Mackinac Island have a special ventilation system to waft the smell of freshly made fudge out onto the Main Street sidewalk. Ryba’s was the first to have this system in 1960.
  • Mackinac Island fudge makers ship in about 10-tons of sugar per week and 10 tons of butter per year to make fudge. About 80 percent of the sugar used comes from Michigan.
  • President Gerald Ford visited Mackinac Island in July 1975, and made a personal stop at May’s Candy Shop for fudge.

To get our fans involved with the Fudge Day fun, we’ve teamed up with four shops from around the island – Joann’s Fudge, May’s Candy Shops, Murdick’s Fudge and Ryba’s Fudge – to offer fans on Twitter the chance to win a prize package of fudge every hour between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. this Friday, June 14th. To be eligible to win, fans can simply tweet their favorite flavor of fudge to @PureMichigan on Friday.

Pure Michigan will then choose one winner at random each hour to win a package from one of the shops in the following order:

  • 10:00 a.m. – Joann’s Fudge
  • 11:00 a.m. – May’s Candy Shops
  • 12:00 p.m. – Murdick’s Fudge
  • 1:00 p.m. – Ryba’s Fudge

Winners will be contacted through Twitter with details on obtaining their prize. Tweets must include the hashtag #puremichiganfudge and entrants must follow Pure Michigan on Twitter.*

Additionally, we encourage fans that are on Mackinac Island on Sunday, June 16 to celebrate National Fudge Day by taking a tasty tour around the island to find your favorite shops and flavors. Fudge shops can now also be found in other vacation spots across the state of Michigan, such as Traverse City, Petoskey and Frankenmuth, and fudge fanatics can order their favorite flavor online from shops across the state.

And, don’t forget to return to Mackinac Island in August to celebrate the sweet sensation that is fudge during the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival, August 23-24, 2013. 

Are you looking forward to National Fudge Day? Be sure to follow @PureMichigan on Twitter this Friday for your chance to win authentic Mackinac Island fudge!

*Disclaimer: Users can only enter the Twitter contest once and those who make multiple accounts in order to enter more than once will be ineligible to win. Those who post the same tweet repeatedly or violate any of the other Twitter Rules will also be ineligible.

The History Behind Ryba’s Fudge Shops

Todd V.Callewaert is no stranger to the hospitality industry. His family started Ryba’s Fudge Shops in 1951 and eventually expanded the business to Mackinac Island, where they also own the Island House Hotel. Today, Todd fills us in on the history behind the businesses and gives us some insight to the fudge industry.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position?

A: My wife Jennifer and I live six months on Mackinac Island and six months in Grosse Pointe Farms Michigan.  Our son Andrew is graduating from MSU this December and William is a freshman at the University of Michigan.  I have worked for Ryba’s Fudge since I was 16 years old making fudge and caramel corn and have been the General Manager of the Island House Hotel since 1988.

Q: What’s the history behind The Island House Hotel and Ryba’s Fudge Shops?

A: Ryba’s Fudge Shops was started by my grandfather and father in 1951with a popcorn and confection store in Detroit.  We started making fudge in 1956 calling ourselves Mackinac Island Fudge.  We moved to Mackinac Island in 1960 and changed the name to Ryba’s Fudge Shops. We now have five locations on Mackinac Island and two in Chicago.  In 1969 we purchased the Island House Hotel, which was to be slated to be torn down due to its state of disrepair.  The Island House was renovated and reopened in the 1970s.  Over the years it has gone through several more renovations and is now a registered Michigan historic landmark.  It has two excellent restaurants, the 1852 Grill Room and the Ice House Bar & Grill. 

Q: What makes fudge the perfect holiday gift?

A: Fudge has a nostalgic quality that makes it the perfect addition to any holiday gathering.  Fudge travels well and stores splendidly; however, we have never know it to last very long once it is brought out.

Q: What types of unique offerings does Ryba’s have for shoppers?

A: We offer ten flavors of fudge to choose from, including our popular Turtle and Chocolate Peanut Butter varieties.  This is in addition to our ‘Ryba’s Special Package’ which includes our fudge, caramel corn, peanut brittle and taffy.

Q: What are people surprised to learn about fudge?

A: Our fudge is all made by hand on marble slabs so it is smooth, unlike other fudges.  

Q: Outside of Ryba’s and The Island House, what are some Mackinac Island must-sees for visitors?

A: Over 83% of Mackinac Island is State Park so there are plenty of trails and bike paths to explore. The best way to see then Island is to take advantage of the lack of cars, grab a bike and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Q: What’s your favorite flavor of fudge?

A: Chocolate Pecan

Q: Where can people to go learn more?

A: Visit www.ryba.com or call 800.44.RYBA to connect with Ryba’s Fudge. For more on Island House Hotel, visit www.theislandhouse.com or call 800.626.6304.

Todd V.Callewaert is currently president of his family business, Ryba’s Fudge Shops. The company began in 1951 with his grandfather opening a store in Detroit. Victor Callewaert joined Harry in 1954, the company eventually moved to Mackinac Island in 1960 and began producing their famous fudge, along with the original caramel corn and myriad handmade confections. Over the next 24 years, the family tradition continued as Todd joined his father in the family business after graduating from Central Michigan University in 1984.  Together they expanded to five separate locations on Mackinac Island, in addition to two locations in Chicago, a year-round mail order operation, the Island House Hotel, three Starbucks locations and four restaurants. Today, Todd looks forward to his oldest son Andrew’s graduation from the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University and his son William’s graduation from the University of Michigan so this strong family tradition may continue into the next generation.

The Original Murdick’s Fudge, Mackinac Island

On a sweet assignment, Kristin Bienert, editor of Michigan Travel Ideas, samples a handful of flavors while learning the art of making fudge at Murdick’s Fudge, the original Mackinac Island fudge shop, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer.

The family’s fudge-making business actually began 10 years prior to the official anniversary. Henry and Sara Murdick and their son, Rome, opened a confectionary in Mount Clemens before moving the shop north to Marine City and Petoskey. But making confections isn’t the only reason for relocating to Mackinac Island in 1887. Henry and Rome, who were sail makers, came to the island during the construction of the Grand Hotel to build canvas awnings for the summer resort.

The family opened Murdick’s Candy Kitchen, which survived and the Great Depression and sugar rationing during World Wars I and II. In 1955, Bob Benser Sr. opened an ice cream shop next to Murdick’s Candy Kitchen. Over the years, Bob learned the art of making fudge from the Murdicks and purchased the business in 1969. Today, Bob Jr. and store partner Ron Steensma, who has been making fudge for more than 30 years, oversee day-to-day operations.

In less time than it takes to hear Ron’s story, a three-person team makes a batch of fudge. One person weighs the ingredients—raw chocolate from Germany, sugar from Bay City, and cream and butter—into a copper kettle set over a propane gas burner. The maker constantly stirs with an oak paddle until the sugary mixture reaches a roaring boil, about 16 to 17 minutes. Cook and head fudge maker, Carnel, pours the hot liquid onto one of three original marble tables, which weigh 750 pounds. Light fudges—vanilla, maple, pecan and peanut butter—are made before chocolate fudges because the tables need to be warm for the chocolate to cream out before it can be folded into shape. As the fudge cools, Carnel works his way around the 5-foot-long marble slab, folding the fudge with a flip of his wrist. This is his eighth summer on the island, and he makes it look easy. When the fudge resembles a giant loaf, the cutter steps in and begins slicing. Every batch yields 60 to 63 half-pound slices.

Throughout the day, the team makes between 15–20 batches of fudge, which means purchases are never more than 24 hours old. Choose from 19 flavors, including the newcomer triple espresso. If you can’t decide, select one of the store’s top sellers: double chocolate, chocolate, chocolate turtle and German chocolate. In addition to fudge, the store makes and sells a variety of peanut brittle and popcorn flavors.

Some more interesting facts: In one week of fudge making, Murdick’s uses 200 pounds of butter, 200 gallons of cream and 5,000 pounds of sugar, all delivered by horse-drawn carriage six days a week.

Each box of fudge comes with a plastic knife, which makes sampling when the mood hits (breakfast!) convenient. After trying many flavors, Kristin’s fave is chocolate peanut butter.