Apple Cider Caramels have a wonderful, apple-pie flavor. Reduced apple cider adds a background tang that goes perfectly with cinnamon and ginger. With just a touch of salt to bring out the other flavors, Apple Cider Caramels are a nice change from the ubiquitous salted caramels!
For the holidays I always make little treats which I can package-up as small gifts for family, friends, hostesses, etc. A couple of years ago I created Shortbread Gift Boxes that were a big hit. Last year I filled gift bags with Cherry Almond Scone Mix –just add water to make warm, fresh-baked scones! This year’s package will include these delicious Apple Cider Caramels.
I buy very few print magazines anymore, but I always pick up an issue of Sift when I see it in the store. Not only does the magazine have gorgeous photos and great recipes, the stories in the magazine highlight wonderful slices of American life and talented bakers across the country. (No, this is not a sponsored post, but I wish it was!! Hello, King Arthur flour!!)
The story that inspired this recipe was about a family in Vermont that makes old-fashioned “boiled cider”. Despite the fact that we visit Vermont a couple of times every winter, and our daughter went to college in the state, I’d never heard of boiled cider before. But I have been using reduced apple cider in my own kitchen forever.
Whenever we have apple cider left over, I cook it to a concentrated syrup and freeze it. Reduced cider gives you all the flavor of fresh apples, with very little added water. I use it in salad dressings, on pork chops and toss it with roasted winter veggies. But I hadn’t thought to use the reduced cider to make candies until I saw the recipe for Boiled Cider Caramels in Sift Magazine.
With the original recipe as a starting point, I replaced the boiled cider with reduced Gold Rush Apple Cider. I also changed the spices a bit because I always want a little more ginger. The flavor of the first batch was A-MAZ-ING! But the caramels were very, very soft and a little pale.
For the second batch I reduced the amount of cream and changed how the candy was cooked. The original recipe mixed all the ingredients together then cooked the mix to 248°F. I wanted a deeper caramel color and firmer texture, so I decided to caramelized the sugar and corn syrup, then add the other ingredients and cook to 250°F.
The candies from the second batch (seen in the photos and video) are be firm enough to hold their shape, but still have a soft bite. They have a deep caramel color and flavor. Exactly what I was after.
Since I wasn’t happy with the first batch I decided to run a little experiment (yay, we love kitchen experiments!). I put the soft caramel back into the pan, brought it up to a boil, and cooked it to 250°F. I was delighted and, frankly, surprised that the recooked candies didn’t get gritty or crystallized. They did set up quite firm. I think they probably went a bit over 250°F by the time the candy melted and came back to a boil. Still delicious, though.
If you like softer caramels cook the candy to 248°, if you like them a little firmer cook to 250°F. But as you can see from my little experiment, this recipe is pretty forgiving.
Watch this video to see how to make Apple Cider Caramels:
These candies are a perfect “Gift from the Kitchen”!
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