Sunday, October 28, 2012

Still by my side... homemade caramel

I never understood growing  up how people could like those hard caramel candies that the grocery store sold or how they could ever eat an apple that had been dipped in it.  This was because I grew up spoiled by homemade treats and goodies.  Every Christmas my mom would pull down her big, heavy bottomed pot and I knew that it was caramel time.  Part of me would dread this because caramel time meant countless hours cutting wax paper into squares, cutting the sticky caramel, and individually wrapping each piece.  I would ask my mom, "Can't we just put them in a bag?" and she would patiently explain that it would turn into a blob and that if you were going to make something as special as caramels then you had to put the time into cutting and wrapping them.

Flash forward 20 years to the first Christmas we had with my parents after they moved back to California and in with us and I got to make those same caramels with my mom again.  The next fall I moved to the high school to teach and wanted to do something fun with my students, so I thought of caramel apples.  I asked my mom to help me make homemade caramel and of course she did.  6 batches later we were exhausted, but the smiles on my students faces were worth it.  There is something astounding about sharing a childhood memory/delight with others and being able to share it with my students was such a gift.  

Flash forward another 13 years and here I am again making caramel for my students.  However, today was bittersweet because I didn't have my mom there helping.  I felt her by my side all day and occasionally talked to her, especially after making a mistake or when I almost dropped my IPhone into the hot caramel trying to take a picture (she would say, "Oh Kateybug, we are making memories").  My heart is irrevocably changed by my mom's passing, but doing things like this brings me a little closer to her.  I may be sobbing as I type and had a cryfest when I started the first batch, but it was worth it. 

I am sharing this family recipe in hopes that you will make it with someone you love and pass it on.  

My Mommalove's Homemade Caramels


Heavy bottomed pot
Candy thermometer
Heavy wooden spoon with a relatively long handle


2 cups granulated sugar 
2 cups heavy cream (separated into 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup portions)
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cups light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla 
1 tsp sea salt (Kate's touch)


1.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot put all of the ingredients, except 1/2 cup cream and vanilla.  Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat. 

 2.  Boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes.  Until it turns from a very light liquid to a light brown thicker mixture.  The boil should not stop when you stir the caramel.

After 10 minutes
After 20 minutes, light brown and thick

3.  Pour in the reserved 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Be careful!  As you stir, this will bubble up and may splatter.  Place the candy thermometer in the pot and continue to boil until the mixture reaches the temperature that you desire, depending on the chart below: 
240 degrees and ready for dipping!

220 degrees:  light, thin caramel sauce 
240 degrees: darker thick caramel sauce (ideal for caramel apples)
250 degrees:  Pan caramels that you will cut and wrap
280 degrees:  Toffee

If you will be apple dipping, it is a good idea to keep the caramel warm in a crockpot while you dip.

4.  Remove the caramel from the heat.  Add in the vanilla and stir.  Be careful, it will hiss and spit at you. 

I am hosting a good friend's baby shower soon.  I made extra caramel for the favors.  These are 4oz ball jars.  Click here to see the favors!


  1. I feel so honored to be able to read about your memories. I, too, learned to make caramels and there is honestly nothing better than homemade caramels. It is work, but joyous work because it brings smiles from others. Love your raw emotion shining through and how your mom called you sweet! Thank you for sharing your love of life, family and food! <3 Trish

  2. I have your caramel recipe from the cookie exchange with your family, and I have to say it is one of the most cherished recipes that I have. I love it, and I love that your mom shared it! I was just thinking about it the other day and thinking of your mom. Your heart is so big and it is truly a direct reflection of her. You both are one in a million!

  3. I'm going to make it Mrs. Dampier:) I love you Mrs. Dampier:)

  4. I'm gonna try this!!! Hope it's a good as yours!!