Old Fashioned Caramels

4 1/4 cups sugar
6 cups (3 pints) light cream or half-and-half, divided into 2 cups portions
2 1/4 cups light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with lightly buttered aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. Combine sugar and 2 cups (1 pint) of the cream in a large, heavy cooking pot and cook over medium low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, cover with a lid briefly to get any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the corn syrup and cook to the soft ball stage (240*F - 115*C) or until a small amount dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water.
  4. Add another 2 cups of cream; continue to cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again.
  5. Add remaining 2 cups cream; cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again. (Each cooking stage takes about 20 to 25 minutes and can burn easily, so keep stirring).
  6. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and pecans. Pour into prepared pan. Cool completely. Invert pan; peel off waxed paper and cut into 1-inch pieces. Wrap pieces individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store in covered container at room temperature.

Makes about 9 dozen pieces

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