Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homemade Caramels

I just wish you all could smell this wonderful aroma in my kitchen tonight!
Three pans of caramel! 
When these are room temperature, I will "ripen" these in the cool back bedroom for a few days/week. 

I have never taken photos of anything I have cooked, but it occurred to me to share this with you when I got to the second batch.

This is it!  A few simple ingredients:
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
I must tell you up front that I have made candy with name brands, house brand, every brand.  I can tell no difference with these particular ingredients, so I always buy the one that is cheapest. When it comes to my dipping chocolate, that's another story and I will get to that in a future post.

On med. high heat, melt the butter first and then tip the pan round and round to coat the sides half way up.  This helps keep the sugars from sticking to the sides of the pan when it starts to boil.  Add all the other ingredients and keep it on med high heat.  If you turn it on high, it cooks to fast and it's hard to keep it from scorching.
Always use a wooden spoon with candy!
Reason: you take a chance of crystallization your candy with a metal spoon.

I learned to make candy with my Mom but when I married, my mother-in-law took me to candy heaven! They learned from their mothers . . . so this wooden spoon theory goes way back.  In today's world the wooden spoon gets a bad rap because it is porous and might harbor bacteria, etc.  If you are interested in the science (how did Granny know this???) of wooden spoon vs. metal spoon you can read a brief explanation here. 

I like one that is flat on the bottom so you get full contact with the bottom of your pan.  I have been known to cut off a rounded spoon to make it flat. I prefer this old relic, which has stirred every batch of candy I have made in the past 30 years. 
My favorite candy pan is a pressure cooker.  It is heavy (thereby evenly heating) and has a sturdy handle.  I bought my daughter a pressure cooker so she can make candy.  They are deep, but not so large so they are hard to handle.  Just right for a batch of candy.

Buy the way, I would not advise you to ever double a candy recipe.

I like to keep my thermometer handy in a glass of hot tap water.  That way, it's warmed up and ready to put into the hot syrup when it starts to boil.  My pastry brush is also in the water-ready to go.
As mentioned earlier, the butter will help to keep the sugar from sticking to the pan, but when the candy starts to bubble, it will splash on the sides. This is when you need to quickly brush the sides of the pan with water to wash down any sugar crystals that may have formed. If you are interested, the Science of sugar goes into a brief but detailed explanation about candy and sugar crystallization.
Stir continuously until it reached 230-232 degrees. It will scorch in a heartbeat, so take care to really stir continuously. The flat bottom spoon will help facilitate this.

Now, I live at 5,400 feet, so If you are at sea level, or way up on that mountain top above me, you might have to find a chart and adjust a degree or two one way or the other. If it's a stormy day I might cook it another degree or two depending on the atmospheric pressure.

We all know that water boils at 212 degrees....but that's at sea level. At my house it's already boiling before it gets to 212.

Before you start cooking the candy, spray a 9 x 13 metal pan with cooking spray.  My mother-in-law always used mineral oil. They certainly didn't have things like "Pam" back in the day. I like to buy the butter flavor spray for candy.

Set your 9 x 13 on a baking rack to keep the heat off of your counter top. Pour hot candy.

Do not scrape the pan.

This goes for any candy. You might pick up a sugar crystal from the side of the pan and if it enters the mass of candy, it will set off a chain reaction and sugar the whole batch.

Again, how did granny know all this???
Fear not!  Waste not!  After you pour into your 9 x 13, I always scrape the pan onto an oiled dinner plate.  Here are the scrapings from all three batches poured on top of one another.  This is about the time that the Hubby arrives with a knife to do the quality testing.

Stay tuned! All the caramel is going to be cut in squares and dipped in chocolate next week.


  1. ohhhh this looks fantastic! thank you for sharing the detailed recipe!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and all of your helpful hints! I LOVE carmel and yours looks divine! (I'm sure I gave you my mailing address...I'll be looking for that care package... *wink*)

  3. When we were raising our family we lived in a small town in central Utah. Our neighbors had a cow and we got raw milk from them. The cream on the top was made into caramels many a Sunday night by our second son. He got so good at it. I still miss raw milk and homemade caramels. Your post got my mouth watering!



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