Made From Scratch: Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels || A Less Processed Life

The downside of having a small farm that includes free-ranging (though surrounded by electric fence) chickens in the Northwoods of Wisconsin is the potential for attacks from above. This past summer we lost several chickens to hawks and bald eagles (#America!).

Apple Cider Caramels || A Less Processed Life

Last week our backyard (and by backyard, I mean our Back 40, and yes, that's acres) was apparently the place to be for all the bald eagles in the area. Our chickens have a few small shelters to roost in at night, but nothing with a door.

So, I took the time to drag our retired chicken coop (that we housed the chickens in last year) into their fenced-in area. (That was, uh, fun. My workouts at the Y are finally paying off, ha ha.) Next I found a tarp and re-covered the back of the coop, which had seen better days. And then I set up my sure-fire(ish) bald-eagle deterrent: I placed a radio atop our Subaru "Say Anything" style and blared Top-40 music. My intention was to get all of the chickens into the coop and close the door, but they were having none of it. So I wished them well and told them to go in there if any danger flew overhead. Long story short, all the chickens lived to see another day.

After all that work, I was definitely in need of a treat. Thank goodness I had made a delicious batch of apple cider caramel candies. Oh my, these are delicious. Do you like apple cider? Do you like caramel sauce? If so, you will definitely like these caramels. They are quite easy to make and would make a delicious treat to share with friends and family this holiday season. You know, if you don't eat them all yourself.

Apple Cider Caramels (printer-friendly version)
makes about 64 candies

4 cups apple cider
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
cooking spray (or neutral oil) for the knife

1. Bring the apple cider to a boil in a 3- or 4-quart sauce pot over high heat. Continue boiling (stirring occasionally) until the cider has reduced to a thick syrup, about 1/2 cup in volume. This should take about 30-45 minutes.
2. While the apple cider is reducing, prep the remaining ingredients so that you have them ready to go for step 3. Add the spices and salt to a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. Line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving on overhang on each side to create a sling that will allow you to easily removed the set caramel from the pan.
3. Once the apple cider has reduced, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Place the pot back on the burner and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue heating until it reaches 252 degrees. This should take between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on your stovetop.
4. Once the caramel reaches 252 degrees, remove it from the heat. Add the spiced salt mixture and stir to evenly combine. Carefully pour the caramel into the prepped metal pan. Let the caramel sit undisturbed until completely firm – this should take about 2 hours.
5. When the caramel is firm, remove it from the pan and set on a cutting board. Spray, or wipe, a sharp knife with a neutral cooking oil and cut the caramel into 1" squares (or whatever size/shape you choose). Wrap each caramel individually in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, carefully twisting the ends to close. Caramels can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks.

(lightly adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe)

Apple Cider Caramels || A Less Processed Life