One of my favorite memories as a young child was going to my grandmothers house for Christmas and getting the same gift that she gave us kids every year: homemade candy boxes. My favorite was here decadent caramels that she would wrap individually is cellophane. The caramels became so popular that by the time I was a teenager, Grandma all but stopped making any other type of candy.
As a child, I didn’t fully comprehend exactly how much time Grandma must have spend making these small boxes filled with what must have been two dozen homemade pieces of candy for all eight of us grandchildren. Oh, the ungratefulness that is youth. Harkening back to my youth, decided to look for some recipes upon which I could draw from to start my own homemade caramel tradition for my nieces and nephews. Well, enough of the small talk. Let’s make some homemade caramel!
The best time to make this delicious, gooey treat is definitely in the fall and winter months. There is just something about caramels (maybe its the brown color) that just screams ‘fall’, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas reiterate that. The key to a great caramel is getting the smooth texture just right, as nobody appreciates candy that is hard to chew or those gritty sugar crystals. The versatility of caramel is what makes it so ‘fall’. There are so many different way to utilize it, whether individually wrapped candies, caramel popcorn, drizzle, or those famously-fall caramel apples.
We can help you make that store-bought caramel that was made 2–3 months ago a thing of the past, by showing you how to make your own delicious homemade caramel. Most folks think that making your own candy is too difficult or that it takes a culinary degree but trust me, Grandma was not rocket scientist. It is extremely easy to make and an inexpensive gift that can give your guests lifelong memories.
Just by following a few easy tips, some of which we found in our 1951 cookbook, Sue’s Candy Kettle and Some of Her Success Secrets) you can become your own family’s Willy Wonka
1. Use the correct vessel. The key to not making a complete mess is finding a large pot to avoid over-boiling stickiness that can be a monster to clean up. One thing to remember is to use one that is deep enough to allow for an accurate thermometer reading, as temperature is key.
2. Crystal control. The most important thing to keep the crystallization controlled is by adding to the amount of corn syrup. Then, stir the cooking mixture just enough to keep it from being sticky. One tip that you will see often is to use high heat, which will keep the crystals from forming. Crystals can ruin you entire batch!
3. Overcooking kills caramel. Cooking your caramel too long will make it tough or give it too much chew, so you really must use a high heat and stay with the caramel at all times. Walking away from your stove during the cooking process is not allowed!
4. When the caramel gets tough. No matter how attentive you are, at some point you will have to deal with a caramel that is too tough. To fix that you should add more cream or butter to you concoction or use a slightly lower temperature. Remember: with practice comes perfection.
5. Keep your cool. We know that it is hard to wait sometimes but don’t get in a hurry cutting the caramel. Allow it to cool before cutting.