For some people, apple cider caramels are one of those essential fall things, conjuring up memories of past trips to orchards, fall festivals and such. I had actually never heard of them until a few years ago, but anything involving caramel is sure to pique my interest, and they certainly did intrigue me. Given that I already have another classic caramel recipe that I adore, I wasn’t immediately sold on the cider caramels. Mainly I wondered – can you actually taste the cider, or is it simply included to make it fall-appropriate? It is a pet peeve of mine when a recipe includes an ingredient simply for the sake of making it popular or seasonal. Each ingredient should have a purpose.
The only way to find out for sure was to try them, so try them I did. You start out with a full quart of cider and that is boiled down to a mere half cup or so. That, my friends…that is the key to the apple cider caramels. The flavor of all that cider is concentrated and then stirred in with the caramel mixture, with a touch of cinnamon to enhance its presence. I loved the final product, and now I understand the hype. Just one more thing for me to love about fall.
Yield: about 64 caramels
- 4 cups (945 ml) apple cider
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- Scant 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 8 tbsp. (4 oz. or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
Add the cider to a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat slightly but allow the cider to remain at a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced to a thick syrup, between 1/3 and ½ cup. Meanwhile, line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
When the cider is reduced to the correct volume, remove the pan from the heat and add in the butter, sugars and cream. Return the pan to the heat and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 252˚ F. (Be sure to watch the temperature very closely. Don’t let Facebook or your smartphone ruin a perfectly good batch of caramels! Speaking from experience here.) As soon as the mixture reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat, stir in the cinnamon and salt, and pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Let stand until completely set, at least a few hours or overnight. Sprinkle with additional flaky sea salt if desired. Remove the slab of caramel from the pan, slice with a lightly greased sharp knife or pizza cutter into 1-inch squares. Wrap in small squares of parchment paper and twist the ends to seal shut. Store in an airtight container.