A Daydream Made of Caramel

IMG_3990 I spent the early morning hours with family. “Big deal, Kerry,” you say. “It’s Thanksgiving in the United States and most Americans are spending it with family.”

But I spent my morning with a grandmother who has been dead since I was 12, two cousins who live hundreds of miles away, and a sister sound asleep in the guest room.

No, I didn’t have a séance and I wasn’t Skyping. I spent the last three hours wrapping a gazillion (really—I counted) little squares of caramel in a gazillion little squares of waxed paper.

As I stood at the counter and wrapped, I daydreamed and I am, if I say it myself, a world-class daydreamer.

I daydreamed about my history with wrapping caramels.

Caramels have been a part of the winter holidays for me for, literally, my whole life. I grew up on a farm and my grandmother made caramels (and divinity) only at this time of year, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it was a big event.

I’m still using her recipe—it takes a full two hours or more to make a batch and involves instructions like, “add the milk, drop by drop. Add the butter, bit by bit.” We kids—my sister and two cousins and I—weren’t encouraged to be around while the caramel was cooking because the hot syrup can cause the most awful burns but, once the caramel was poured and had time to set, our work began.

We were the caramel wrappers!  We didn’t see this as work at all. Or, if it was work, it came with great benefits! I’m sure we didn’t eat as many as we wrapped but I’m also sure we needed some time outside after we were done, to work off the sugar high.

My grandmother would carpet the kitchen table with little squares of waxed paper, cut the caramel into strips, and cut little pieces—plop, plop, plop—onto the paper. Little hands would pick up each square, wrap the waxed paper around and twist the ends to seal the caramels in.

Nowadays, a lot of my caramel gets dipped in chocolate or added to some other candy, like turtle bark or candy bars. The chocolate-covered fleur de sel caramels are by far my best-selling item.

But sometimes, I do get orders for the pure, unadulterated caramels and, as was the case this morning, I find myself wrapping little bites of caramel in squares of waxed paper.

And my mind wanders to a different warm kitchen, four little girl cousins, a plump farm grandmother, sweets made with loving hands at home—a scene out of Norman Rockwell and perfect for daydreams and happy memories. Wrapping caramels still comes with benefits.

I hope you have the chance to daydream and enjoy family memories on your day of thanksgiving!

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Autumn Senses–Scent of Ginger

ginger choc caramels-4It’s a rainy, cool autumn morning in the North Country, the kind that engages your senses in a variety of ways. Right now, I’m most aware of my sense of smell because my whole house carries the scent of warm ginger.

Lots of people seem to associate maple with fall but I think ginger is the signature scent. Don’t get me wrong—I have maple in my blood. I grew up on a farm where we made maple syrup, but, to me, maple is a spring thing—that’s when the sap is running and the boiling down occurs, to turn that sap into heaven.

Ginger is warm and cozy—like a favorite sweater on a cool day. I love that it has a spicy zip to it, too. I’m making ginger caramels, which involves infusing cream with fresh ginger root and then adding that to the other caramel ingredients and letting the whole thing burble for a couple of hours.

When the caramel reaches the “soft ball” stage, I’ll add finely chopped crystallized ginger and let them set. They’re amazing just cut into squares—like Reed’s Ginger Chews only creamier—but I’ll dip some in dark chocolate, too, because I am of the opinion that dark chocolate makes most things taste better!

I have more fresh ginger root and crystallized ginger on hand so I think my next step is to try these Triple Ginger Cookies. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

What is your go-to fall scent? Pumpkin? Apple? Cinnamon? Or do you love ginger, too?

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If you make caramels and want the details about giving them a jolt with ginger, let me know!