Fudge or death?
June 6, 2010 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Three christmasses gone, my wife and I bought some fudge. I've just found it in the back of the cupboard -- can I eat it? It's basically just sugar, that never goes off, right?
posted by coriolisdave to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Fudge is usually made with more than just sugar, right? Milk, butter and cocoa, too. I would expect some of that to go bad after a while.
posted by darkstar at 12:32 AM on June 6, 2010




posted by SansPoint at 12:44 AM on June 6, 2010 [10 favorites]

The fat will have probably gone rancid.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:52 AM on June 6, 2010

Read us the ingredients label.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:56 AM on June 6, 2010

I'd smell it and if it smelled rancid wouldn't eat it. Otherwise I'd eat it. When did it's use-by date expire?
posted by taff at 1:05 AM on June 6, 2010

Response by poster: I'm afraid this is gourmet/"home made" fudge, so no ingredient labels, nor use-/best-before date. It smells okay..
posted by coriolisdave at 1:14 AM on June 6, 2010

(There's an opportunity for CAN I EAT THIS? THE MISSING MANUAL for a food writer somewhere... will likely be a multi-volume effort, too)

In answer to the fudge question, No, a thousand times no. Butter will be rancid, milk will be rancid, nuts (if any) will have turned as well.

Stay away, throw it out, don't eat that. If you have a hankering for fudge, a quick shop at your local mall will satisfy your craving for about a buck. Don't put your health in danger.
posted by seawallrunner at 1:15 AM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

If it smells ok, it's fine.
posted by Joe Chip at 2:08 AM on June 6, 2010

Best answer: If it's rancid you'll taste it and possibly smell it. It won't make you sick, just be nasty (rancid fats are pretty unmistakeable). The high sugar content will stop bacterial growth so if it tastes good you'll be fine.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you want to shit all day tomorrow? Didn't think so. Don't eat it.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 2:13 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In military survival guides, they recommend an incremental process for determing whether wild plants are edible. First, hold some against your skin and wait. If there's no reaction, hold some in your mouth. If there's no reaction, try chewing it without swallowing. If there's no reaction, swallow a very small amount. Etc, etc.

As others have said, the butter or oil have probably gone rancid. But if you really want to test it, try tasting and/or swallowing a very small amount. Wait at least a day. If it didn't taste terrible or make you sick, try a little bit more. You'll have your answer soon enough.

But yeah, that's only if you're really determined not to waste fudge. Otherwise, just throw it out and buy some more.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:13 AM on June 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

Go buy some fudge. It's available in stores these days I think. And will probably taste better than 3 year old fudge that has been hanging out in your kitchen.
posted by gcolmes@gmail.com at 5:39 AM on June 6, 2010 [11 favorites]

taste is not a reliable indicator of food safety

... but it is a reliable indicator of rancidity, which, as shelleycat points out above, is the only thing that could possibly be wrong with the fudge.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 5:43 AM on June 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Okay, if it were beef jerky, would everyone be shrieking about e coli? Preparation matters, which AskMe seems to forget at should-I-eat-it time, when everyone just starts listing ingredients and making conclusions based on the usual shelf/fridge life of those individual ingredients. The fact that it contains butter/milk doesn't answer the question, because the immense amounts of sugar stop the growth of bacteria. Chocolate, for instance, has those things, but is good for years (may get a little "bloom," but won't hurt you).

Nothing to do with strengthening the immune system, even.

It won't make you sick. It might very well taste off.
posted by palliser at 6:41 AM on June 6, 2010

malibustacey9999, I have let my child sleep all night in a Halloween costume on the living room floor. I just cleaned my toilet for the first time in a month. I don't wash my hands every single time I use the bathroom because soap makes my hands dry. I sometimes eat breakfast right before my morning swim. I am far from what you would call anal or uptight about "the rules."

However, I am pretty careful about food. The most expensive food item that has ever gone dodgy around here is still not worth a $50 emergency room copay, a day of PTO from work or, heaven forbid, feeling like a steaming pool of liquid shit on my own time.

I wouldn't eat the fudge.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:49 AM on June 6, 2010

Totally worth trying. All that sugar really is worth something.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:54 AM on June 6, 2010

I've had fudge that sat around for 2 weeks, which obviously hasn't gone bad, but is completely dry and odd tasting. This is especially true for that small batch homemade fudge (less so for more penuche or maple fudge).

Go and buy more fudge and eat that instead.
posted by jeather at 7:09 AM on June 6, 2010

My rule of thumb: don't eat anything that's years old unless it clearly doesn't go bad at all. This might be true of pure sugar, but you're taking it too literally when people say fudge is "just sugar." They just mean it has a lot of sugar, not that there are no other ingredients.

I'm not claiming that my rule of thumb is backed up by any science; it's just such an easy rule to follow considering that there's not much reason to let food sit around that long. I don't understand the comment about how "life's too short" to not eat this fudge. Life's too short to eat food that old, and worrying if you're going to get sick, instead of just throwing it out and putting it on your grocery shopping list. If you've waited three years, you can wait till after the next time you go shopping.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:24 AM on June 6, 2010

I seem to post this in a lot of "Should I Eat This Threads"

For future reference: Still Tasty

Also, don't trust your nose or tongue to tell you if something has gone bad.
When food is cooked and left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature, bacteria can multiply quickly. "Most bacteria grow undetected because they don’t produce a bad odor or change the color or texture of the food. Freezing food slows or stops bacteria’s growth but does not destroy the bacteria. The microbes can become reactivated when the food is thawed. Refrigeration also can slow the growth of some bacteria. Thorough cooking is needed to destroy the bacteria.
Life is too short to spend a couple of days puking your guts out just for a taste of fudge.
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mod note: few comments removed - rants go to metatalk, not here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:45 AM on June 6, 2010

Actually, some people don't seem to be able to taste rancidity.

My sister and I were dealing with the estate of a deceased relative. She opened a drawer and found a wrapped chocolate bar. She unwrapped it, popped a square into her mouth, and then offered me one. It was so rancid that I was spitting it out after my first taste. Checking the package I found the candy was 8 years old. My sister said it tasted fine to her and ate the rest of it.

According to this blog post, Delicious defective cured olive oil, some people like and even expect a slight rancidity in things like olive oil and peanut butter cups because it adds to the complexity of flavor. But I figure my sister and a few others like her I've known must have a defect in their taste mechanism.

I don't know if rancid things taste bad because rancidity is harmful in itself, or if our taste system has latched onto it self as a proxy - things which have gone rancid often contain other substances which are harmful.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:47 AM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Actually, some people don't seem to be able to taste rancidity.

Huh. Interesting!

I don't know if rancid things taste bad because rancidity is harmful in itself

It's my understanding that rancid fats aren't harmful, just unpleasant. So in the fudge case, I'd still go with "if it tastes fine, eat it."
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 12:40 PM on June 6, 2010

Best answer: Bin the zombie fudge dude and move on.
posted by gomichild at 2:04 PM on June 6, 2010

Checking the package I found the candy was 8 years old. My sister said it tasted fine to her and ate the rest of it.

I recently had a similar experience when my wife cleaned out the pantry and stuck way in the back was an unopened bag of fancy cookies that was several years old. My wife wanted nothing to do with them, so I took them to my mother's where we tried them. My mother and I agreed they were horribly rancid after one bite, but my 5 year old ate one with gusto and wanted more. We distracted here and tossed the rest of them, but no one suffered any ill effects. My personal approach would be to try a bit and see if it is still good. Even if not rancid it may be hard as a rock or otherwise not harmful, but also not edible.
posted by TedW at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2010

If it doesn't smell vile; has no unpleasant odor, I'd give it a nibble. And if it tasted okay I'd probably eat more, but maybe not that day. Actually I've had some good experiences with aged fudge, but those experiements involved storage intervals of weeks, not years.
posted by Rash at 3:44 PM on June 6, 2010

And again, rash, bacterial (or indeed other) contamination cannot necessarily be detected by the tongue or nose. And yes, I'm aware that sugar in that concentration impedes bacterial growth.

But as someone pointed out above, you're just talking about ingredients, you're not talking about preparation--and let me tell you, professional kitchens (and our health inspectors) are much more concerned about how food is prepared and how prepped or raw ingredients are stored than they do about the actual ingredients themselves.

This shit is three years old. In the bin.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:27 PM on June 6, 2010

"horribly rancid after one bite, but my 5 year old ate one with gusto and wanted more"

It seems that it takes children a while to get their sense of taste properly calibrated, and early on it is mainly tongue-taste such as 'sweet' etc. My son was (and still is) a clementine freak and I would sometimes peel him 6 a day and often I didn't share in the segments with him. One time after he had eaten half the segments I had one and found that the whole clementine had gone bad without any visual clue but he was happily eating it.

The lesson with children is:
1) Taste food before giving it to children because often they can't tell if it is off.
2) Early on you should expose children to lots of different tastes and textures before they enter into picky eaterhood which only may partially wear off after puberty.

I would expect that a poor family who could only get rancid dietary fat might raise children who found it quite edible.

But this doesn't explain my sister who was not raised on rancid fat. Either she has an extreme sweet-tooth which overrides other considerations, or she really can't taste rancidity. Another woman I know was not able to tell that the walnut oil and sesame oil in her kitchen was too rancid to use, even when she directly tasted them, which we had her do when she wondered why nobody was eating a dish she had prepared.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:51 PM on June 6, 2010

I say eat it. If you start vomiting, don't eat more.
posted by electroboy at 6:44 AM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: I tossed it. Call me chicken if you will ;). Thanks all.
posted by coriolisdave at 1:31 AM on June 13, 2010

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