Thanksgiving Gold

From Anne B. Howard

I filled all the bird-feeders, set back the clocks, stacked flower pots, and made caramel today, because winter’s coming. Why the caramel? Because nothing less would do.

When I was a child, my “other mother,” sweet Mama Judy, the wife of a fur-trader, hunter, and fisherman—yes, by profession—made the most delicious delicacies from almost nothing. My favorite then, and forever will be, was that impossibly thick, almost-brown-yet-golden, aromatic caramel she concocted in her blackened, ancient looking pot on the old three-burner stove. I stood behind her on a chair, well back from the flame, where I could see clearly as she turned a simple cup of sugar, some water, Karo Syrup, a chuck of butter, and a bit of fresh cream into a confection so divine, so intoxicating, that men would propose marriage just to get a steady supply. Mama Judy’s caramel is that good. Trust me.

We love it over ice cream, or drizzled on apple pie, or a praline cheesecake, or poured over big, juicy, Fuji apples, (then roll in mini-chocolate chips), or even added to your coffee, or… in a spoon straight from the jar. My newest caramel favorite for company is: vanilla ice cream, drowning in Mama Judy’s caramel, doused with Kahlua, then finished with Heath candy bar crumbles.

In the spirit of love, peace, and Thanksgiving for this beautiful country we live in, and all of our many blessings, I offer you, my special friends, this magic holiday recipe for “sweet liquid love.” May it see you through many a cold and grey winter’s day, as we sip our tea and write our stories, waiting for spring to return.

*I always double the following to make a little over two cups, enough to fill a pint jar.

Mama Judy’s Salted Caramel 

1 cup sugar

4 TBSP water

2 TBSP Karo Corn syrup (light colored)

½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream is fine); measured and ready to add

*2 TBSP butter, in chunks

*½ tsp lemon juice

*½ tsp kosher or sea salt

(I place these last three ingredients in a small cup, ready to add fast) 

  • In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and the corn syrup. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  • After 3 minutes, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium high. At this point, it will be bubbling but still clear in color.
  • FROM THIS POINT ON, do not stir but gently swirl mixture around in the pan as it cooks, so the caramel doesn’t burn.
  • Continue to cook until the caramel turns amber in color. I estimate this to take about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat, let rest 30 seconds.
  • BE VERY CAREFUL HERE: (I use a heavy flat wire whisk.) Begin to whisk the amber mixture, then ADD all the cream. CAREFUL! IT WILL BUBBLE UP significantly and is very hot. Keep whisking.
  • Then, quickly add the butter chunks, lemon juice and salt. Keep Whisking.
  • Once the butter is all melted and mixture is smooth, pour into a 3-4 cup vessel and allow it to cool. You may then pour into a pint jar with a lid and continue cooling (it will seal), or cool and keep for weeks in the refrigerator. To use: Remove the metal ring and lid, and heat in the microwave about 15-20 seconds, until loose enough to pour. You may then re-refrigerate and repeat as desired.

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