Homemade Caramels

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These treats are one of the reasons why the baby weight didn’t just “fall off” after I gave birth to my first son David.

My mom has made caramels in the fall and winter for as long as I can remember. A lot of my family recipes come from my dad’s side as his mom really loved to bake. This recipe, though, comes from my mom’s mom!

I’ve made these a few times and have already learned that they require a lot of attention and precision. The temperature they need to hit in order to set their hardness needs to be exact, and the time it takes to get there is also really important.

The caramels I made this weekend got to temperature a little faster than anticipated, and part of that is because my stove at the house is a little hotter than my last one. I need to figure out the right setting and keep practicing. A few essential tools to assist you in your caramel making are a great thermometer and possibly an automatic pot stirrer! This recipe requires about 30 minutes of constant stirring, so if you aren’t able to do that I’d definitely check out the pot stirrer. If you are able to sit near your stove and stir, use a wooden or silicone spoon to stir.

Homemade Caramels

yields: about 30 caramels // time: approx. 45 minutes, approx. 30 minutes required stirring

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)

1/2 pound butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

also helpful: candy thermometer, wooden spoon, chair for sitting in next to the stove, patience and endurance.

In a medium sauce pan on low heat, melt butter. Add sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat then turn the heat down a bit to maintain a simmer. Attach thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Stir constantly for about 30 minutes until caramels reach 248* degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a heavily buttered pan (11×7) and let cool. Cut into squares and wrap in wax paper**.

*I’ve made caramels twice this year (2020) and found that a softer, more chewy caramel that also holds its shape well is when its cooked to 247 degrees. So, if you are running into your caramels being too firm, try bumping down 1 degree. I know that may not seem like it matters but chemistry doesn’t lie.

**I found precut squares for wrapping papers on amazon in case you are interested!

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Kelly says · 12.16.19

Do you use light or dark brown sugar? Or do you find it doesn’t matter?

Thanks

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Beth Mann says · 12.31.19

Hi Kelly,

I didn’t have enough of the light brown sugar when I made my first batch, so I used one cup light and one cup dark. They tasted amazing!!! So I think you would be good either way!

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Siri says · 12.16.19

Thanks for sharing! I also have a caramel recipe from my mom’s mom that I make every year around Christmas time 🙂

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Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says · 12.16.19

Mmm, this sounds delicious! Family recipes are the best! ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
http://charmainenyw.com

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Jessica says · 12.16.19

I loved watching these stories. And I love caramel! I’ll have to try these. Thanks for sharing your family recipe. 🙂

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Michelle says · 12.16.19

These look amazing! What size pan do you use? And any tips for cutting them?

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Kate says · 12.16.19

I turn the pan over onto a cutting board and slice into strips, then cut into squares!

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Beth Mann says · 12.31.19

Ohhhh, good idea! I didn’t think to do that, I cut them right out of the cake pan….this way would be much easier, thank you Kate!

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Cindy Reid says · 12.12.21

Salted or unsalted

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April says · 12.17.19

I’m not a big candy maker, but do you think using a digital meat thermometer would work?? Lol. I’m thinking it would be nice to set the temp and have the alarm go off. 🤣

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Laura says · 12.18.19

I was wondering the same thing! I might give it a whirl! I don’t have a candy thermometer, but I do have a digital meat thermometer!

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Emily says · 12.21.19

Look up the ice water method! It works!

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Thelma says · 12.17.19

Unsalted butter?

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Kate says · 12.17.19

I used salted!

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Tosha says · 12.17.19

These look so great! Possibly stupid question: are these chewy caramels or more like hard candy? THANKS for sharing!!

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Kate says · 12.18.19

Not a stupid question at all! These are chewy! The temperature you bring them to determines how chewy and soft they are!

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Stefanie says · 12.19.19

Have you ever tried pouring the caramel into a silicone mold so you don’t have to cut them into squares? Just wondering if that would work. You could make some cute Christmas shaped caramels. Or any season really 🙂

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Kate says · 12.19.19

No I haven’t tried that!

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Dani Allen says · 12.19.19

Hey Kate! Can you tell me where did you get the gray vest you were wearing when you were cleaning your van on Sunday? I believe you were wearing it again on Tuesday night and you got rained on lol
Thank you and Happy Holidays to you!

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Kate says · 12.19.19

I’m afraid it’s many years old from Athleta and no longer available!

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Jennifer says · 12.20.19

Hi, what size can of sweetened condensed milk do you use?

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Kate says · 12.20.19

14oz!

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Lorrie Kay Douglas says · 12.22.19

Just made this today and it is awesome!!! So good and easy to make. The precut wax sheets are wonderful too. Thank you!!!

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Tamara says · 12.26.19

Can you post the recipe for the pastries your sister was making the other day? I used to make them with my best friend and her grandma when I was younger. Great memories but I could never find the recipe!

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Beth Mann says · 12.31.19

I made these three times this Christmas! The first time they came out perfect!!! The second, they turned out a little harder that I had wanted (but the candy thermometer had a water in it), but they turned out like a slow poke, so my hubby loved them! Then the third batch they were too soft. I think I got to temperature to quickly. Yes, you have to be precise! But they tasted incredible!!!! Thank you so much! Happy New Year!!!

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Debra Smith says · 12.04.20

Are you sure about 248 degrees? I made the recipe last year & I could not remove caramels from pan. They were like a big rock, I had to soak glass pan for 2 days.

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Diana says · 12.04.20

Try testing your thermometer to make sure it’s accurate. You can test in blinking water or freezing water. Google “testing thermometer” for how to do it.

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Leslie says · 12.18.20

I can’t wait to make these!! Have you ever tried putting pecans or walnuts in these?

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Elsa says · 12.19.20

I made these! Soooo good. And easy. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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Sarah says · 12.20.20

I made these yesterday for the first time and they turned out great! Thanks for the recipe. It’ll be a cute little gift for the neighbors for Christmas.

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Elizabeth says · 12.20.20

I was gifted these caramels in a Christmas plate and IMMEDIATELY texted my friend for the recipe!! Need to make these soon. Do I need to buy a candy thermometer or will my instant read digital kitchen thermometer work OK?

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Kate says · 12.21.20

I would highly, highly recommend a digital candy thermometer!

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Lauren says · 12.21.20

Made these today and they turned out great! I bought pre-cut wax paper, but do you have a certain method to wrapping? Mine didn’t look very pretty! 🙃

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agreso says · 12.23.20

I loved watching these stories. And I love caramel! I’ll have to try these. Thanks for sharing your family recipe. 🙂

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Carrie Hammer says · 12.24.20

I was just thinking while I was using my candy thermometer for marshmallows, for those that found struggle with results… check your candy thermometer for accuracy. To do this: boil water and put the thermometer in the water, not allowing the tip to touch the bottom. It should reach 212 F, or 100 C. And since we don’t use them but once a year, they get bumped around in the drawer, good to check them.

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nha kinh mini says · 12.27.20

I loved watching these stories. And I love caramel! I’ll have to try these. Thanks for sharing your family recipe. 🙂

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Mia says · 08.26.21

Thank s for sharing! This looks really delicious and i think i can also make this with my students in https://georgia.edu.ph/ will try this out with them.

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Heather Walker says · 12.04.21

Mine turned out super hard, like rock solid. What do you think I screwed up?

Thanks!

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Kate says · 12.05.21

It’s likely your temperature was too high!

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Leann Andrews says · 12.09.21

Hi Kate! I’m excited to try these this year! Have you ever added sea salt? If you have, when do you add it?

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Cathleen Smith says · 12.10.21

Hello Kate!
Love this!
Definitely going to make these with my
daughter!
Is there a certain saucepan you or your mom recommends for this particular caramel recipe? Looking at the video it seems non stick?

Thank you and Merry Christmas! Been watching you for years! You truly are a light in the you tube community!

Blessings
Cathleen Smith

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Kate says · 12.10.21

Yes a non stick will be easiest to work with!

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Katie says · 12.10.21

Could you cover these in chocolate? Do they hold their shape enough for that?

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Kate says · 12.10.21

I have never tried that, but let me know how it goes 🙂

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Darcie says · 12.10.21

Would a pan with wax paper in it work vs a buttered pan?

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Cindy Reid says · 12.12.21

Salted or unsalted butter or does it matter

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Abbey says · 12.12.21

How long are these good for? What is the best way to store them?

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Katie says · 12.19.21

About to make my second batch of these this Christmas season! I made them last year for the first time and it’s quickly becoming a favorite part of our holiday traditions! Yum!

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Elizabeth says · 12.28.21

I’ve found that even on the lowest heat on the stove, the caramel on the bottom of the saucepan scorches! It turns a dark brown and I don’t think I’m supposed to stir that in to the mixture. I have it off the heat right now, hoping for a response so I don’t have to dump this whole batch. This happened in my heavy-bottom pot (dutch oven) AND a regular saucepot. Heat is on the absolute lowest possible. SOS!?

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