For over 20 years locals have been able to get their fudge fix at the San Antonio General Store.
People traveling through from Albuquerque, Alamogordo, Las Cruces and Ruidoso stop in at the gas station and convenience store for a cup of coffee and a piece of rich, buttery fudge. The fudge comes in more traditional flavors like plain chocolate or maple walnut, seasonal favorites like biscochito or rum raisin for Christmas and brightly colored fruity flavors that appeal to kids like watermelon.
“Some people really like the fruity fudges and some people are just like, oh no, fudge has to be chocolate,” said store owner Anne Lund.
Dark chocolate caramel sea salt is Lund’s favorite flavor. Once a week, she comes in early or stays late to make fudge in the store’s small kitchen. For 15 years, she has owned and operated the business.
Fudge is a happy sell.
“People love their chocolate and I think that’s probably the best part about making it, it does make people happy and they come back,” said Lund. “Even going Albuquerque to Las Cruces, they’ll be like ‘Oh we had to stop to see if you had fudge,’ and especially these days, anything to make anybody happy, is a big bonus.”
Lund is originally from Denmark, and has always been in the food business. At 23, she had a restaurant in Denmark where she made desserts. When she came to the U.S. at 26, she continued to work in restaurants. But she wasn’t always familiar with fudge.
“It’s not something that we had in Europe back in the day, so when I first tasted it and saw it, I was, wow, this is, it’s sweet, very sweet compared to a lot of chocolate in Europe, but it’s good.”
The San Antonio General Store has sold fudge made in-house in the same pot under three different owners.
“People come by and say, ‘Oh my gosh, my parents used to bring me when I was a little bitty kid.’”
A large silver pot sits on the kitchen’s back counter. The bottom is a sealed chamber filled with distilled water. On Thursday morning, the top of the pot was filled with melting chocolate.
“This is the magic pot,” said Lund.
The pot has been with the store longer than Lund has, passed along through the different owners the same way the fudge recipes were passed along.
“They’re quite expensive so I’m really praying it will stay together. I put a new motor in it once and I think the motor for it was 600 bucks, so it’s quite the machine, but it’s way worth it.”
The pot gradually melts the chocolate without having to use a stove top and double boiler, making it possible to produce large quantities of fudge.
“You can adjust the temperature, which I usually never do. I use my hand to see how hot it is. I know if I can’t keep my hand on there, it’s hot enough.”
When the fudge is ready, Lund pours it into large square pans and tops the weighty dessert with pecans, walnuts or caramel.
Lund’s brother is a chef, and helped her adjust the original fudge recipes. Lund enjoys testing new fudge flavors. She wouldn’t mind experimenting with adding strawberry to the fudge and would really like to create a red chile fudge. Lund has to be careful working with red chile because she’s highly allergic to the ingredient.
“I’d love to make a red chile fudge, but I haven’t quite mastered not making it grimy,” she said.
After she moved to San Antonio, Lund bonded with the Romanian couple who owned the store before her, because they were all from Europe. She’d come in for the occasional cup of coffee. When her children were old enough for school, she wasn’t sure what to do with her time. The store owners wanted to move back to Romania and suggested Lund buy the business.
When she first took ownership of the store, it was more of a challenge than expected. The store is open seven days a week and used to have longer hours. Her kids went to the San Antonio school and would come to the shop in the afternoons after school got out. Lund’s husband ran a heavy equipment business and after his workday was done he’d come and mop the floors in the general store.
“It was long days though, I have to say. It was a little bit of a mouthful because I was used to being home with the kids and that was my whole life, so this was kind of a lot.”
Now, Lund gets a lot of help in the shop from her teen granddaughter. The hours are shorter than they used to be, but the store is still open every day and a little later on weekends so visitors can get dessert after dining at one of San Antonio’s renowned restaurants.