The holiday season officially starts when I make my first batch of caramel. For as long as I can remember, Dad making homemade caramel and Jule Kage marked the start of the holidays. I continued the caramel traditional through college and adulthood. I remember making a batch on the crummy electric stove in my college dorm with a cheap candy thermometer. Despite cooking much longer than I thought it should, a housemate christened that batch "amoeba caramel" for its tendency to pool instead of hold a nice square shape when cut into bite sized pieces.
Some years I only made one batch; last year I made 8. Most years, I also bake a few cookies and make some fudge and nut brittle. I have not made Jule Kage recently because D is not really a fan of candied fruit in his bread.
For the next few weeks, my kitchen will go into caramel production mode. I'll start a batch every few days, and wrap many bite sized pieces every day until Christmas. So, if you wonder why I'm not knitting, it's because I'm up to my elbows in this:
2 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 cup cream (I usually use heavy, but light works, too)
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions (the numbers refer to the photos below--as always click for big)
1. Put everything except vanilla into a heavy bottomed 3 quart saucepan.
2. Stir over med-low heat until the butter melts and sugars dissolve.
3. Clamp on candy thermometer.
4-6. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup reaches 240 degrees. Stir constantly until caramel reaches 246-248. Let rest for 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Enjoy watching the consistency and color changes as the caramel cooks.
7. Pour into buttered 9 x 13 pan to cool overnight.
8. Turn caramel onto cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Give to all your friends.