History Carolina Caramels

Eleanor Rose

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(Photograph by ISTOCK/ULYASHKA)
In the early 1880s, some ingenious candy maker added fat and milk while boiling sugar and water and created what became known as caramel. Caramels were also made with sugar beet juice during this time because refined sugar was expensive and hard to come by. During the mid-1800s, most American candy manufacturers began making and selling caramels.

“Soft” is a relative term when describing caramels, but the extra cream in this Carolina recipe makes softer, taffy-like caramels that are less likely to stick to your teeth. You can cut these bite-size candies into small squares or twist them up in waxed paper like Tootsie Rolls.


Carolina Caramels


Ingredients (Yields 5 dozen caramel candies):
1½ cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:
Mist an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Mist the paper.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a deep 3- or 4-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until the mixture is a moist, grainy paste. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to wash away any grains of sugar above the surface of the mixture. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and position it so that the tip is immersed in the liquid. Cook the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches 250º. Do not stir! If the tip of the candy thermometer is not immersed in the liquid, gently tilt the pan so that the liquid covers the tip when you need to check the temperature. Gently brush down the sides of the pan with the pastry brush each time. There can be no residue above the surface of the liquid.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream mixture. The sugar syrup will bubble, hiss, and rise vigorously at first. Stop whisking as soon as all of the cream mixture goes in.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 245º to 250º (firm-ball stage). Do not stir! Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

Pour the caramel into the prepared dish. Gently tap the dish on the counter to remove air bubbles. Let the caramels sit undisturbed overnight, uncovered. If the caramel is still too soft and tacky to cut the next day, refrigerate until firm. Use the parchment paper handles to lift the slab of candy from the dish. Cut the candy into bite-size pieces. Wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of waxed paper and twist the ends closed. Store at room temperature for up to two weeks.


Edit: While the exact history of caramel is unknown, it is recorded that about 1650 American settlers were making hard candies in kettles.
 

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Eleanor Rose

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Milton Hershey’s candy making empire did not begin with chocolate. Instead, it began with caramels. His first company was Lancaster Caramel Company. Hershey actually discovered the joys of chocolate while seeking candy coatings for Lancaster Caramels. He sold Lancaster Caramels in 1900 to The American Caramel Company for an unheard of 1 million dollars.

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Milton Hershey (The Hershey Story)
 

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Eleanor Rose

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There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of caramel flavors, textures and chewy variations. You can add nearly any flavor to caramels. Chocolate, vanilla, maple, butter and creams are among the most popular.

The traditional caramel recipe is easy to follow.

Ingredients:
2 cups refined white sugar
1 ½ cups of corn syrup
2 cups of cream
1 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract - You can substitute chocolate, butterscotch, molasses or maple extract.

Directions:
Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

In a heavy pan, mix the sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla extract (or choice of substitute) and one cup of the cream to boiling.

Add the last cup of cream.

Use a candy thermometer to heat this to 242 degrees Fahrenheit
 


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