Closing in on the end of October we have plenty of time for one more luscious national candy holiday.
What better time to celebrate National Caramel Month than at Halloween?
Golden, yummy & versatile
Caramel is much more than the little cubes you buy to melt for caramel apples.
Always soft and chewy no matter the application, caramel has been used as a topping, a filling, flavoring agent, etc., for about 143 years.
All caramel recipes call for milk or cream and sugar, but different schools of confectioners have added ingredients to create two kinds of caramel – traditional French caramels made with sweet butter and salt caramels made by using salted butter or sea salt.
Besides adding butter to make caramel smoother and richer, candy makers have also added flavorings like chocolate, coffee, lemon, licorice, chai, chipotle, Earl Grey, ginger, jasmine and lavender.
Because making caramel involves boiling milk or cream, which burn easily, it cooks at a much lower temperature – 248°F, the firm-ball stage – than many other similar candies. (Butterscotch cooks at 270°F-290°F, toffee at 295°F-310°F.)
The gauges of good caramel are taste and texture.
Well-made caramel is buttery and mellow to the tastebuds and silky on the tongue as it melts in your mouth.
- Recipes for caramel, the topping and the individual candies, first developed in the United States in the 1870s, about the same time Neopolitan ice cream was developed.
- Caramel is sometimes confused with the hard candies toffee and butterscotch, which are British inventions.
- Caramel is considered the one of the world’s first soft candies, along with the chocolate bar which was invented in 1847.
- Less fancy and expensive caramel is made with milk instead of cream and vegetable oil instead of butter. It is also slightly healthier than full-metal-jacket caramel.
- Milton S. Hershey, world-renown American chocolatier, left Pennsylvania to learn to make caramel in Denver, Colo., when his first candy business failed in 1882. Later in 1886, his Lancaster (Penn.) Caramel Company shipped all over the US and Europe and employed 1,400 people.
GJE’s Pecan Pralines
Celebrate Halloween the old-fashioned way by making some of your own candy.
Caramel is a very easy confection to make, and pecan pralines incorporate the goodness of fall with ripe nuts and rich caramel.
This is another recipe that’s been in GJE’s family so long that no one remembers how old it is.
Remember to use a wooden spoon so that it doesn’t sugar. A clear cool day helps as well.
Be careful as you stir. Melted sugar burns like fire.
Ingredients – Caramel
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1 stick Land O’ Lakes® whole salted butter or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter®
- 1/4-1/3 cup half & half. Fat-free is available and works just fine.
Ingredients – Nuts
- About 2 cups pecan halves
1. Lightly toast pecans in a dry cast iron skillet and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan over mediumlow heat, melt butter then stir in brown sugar.
3. Bring the mixture to a very low boil, and cook down until the foam from the butter disappears and the caramel thickens.
4. Let the caramel cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. If the caramel is still too hot to touch with your fingers, let cool another 10 minutes.
5. Do not let the caramel set in the pan.
6. Use a teaspoon to spoon the caramel in ovals onto wax paper and let cool.
7. Before the praline sets, press a toasted pecan half into the top of each praline.
8. Let cool completely and serve or store.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: email@example.com