Sweet & Salty

img_4170Our neighbors to the south of us are a quiet couple with two young kids and a puppy. We never hear a peep from their babies, and their dog makes the funniest howling noises when she gets lonely (or wants food, I presume). I feel for her, she’s been bested by the babies. Our dog, and their dog, chat through the fence every once in a while. 

Every Christmas, I take them a little homemade treat. This year was persimmon bourbon bread. One random week in February they returned the favor and brought over some homemade caramels. They came to the door carrying their oldest daughter, and proudly announced that they had been making homemade candy, and they had brought some over to share. Golden brown caramels were wrapped in little wax paper wrappers. I was so excited to taste them I could barely wait until after dinner.  They were soft and chewy. So fresh. But the best thing was when you got to the middle there was a little crunch of sea salt. So simple and so delicious. They were gone in no time, leaving me to howl with their puppy for more.
How to be Neighborly: A little salt can make things ever so sweet.

Homemade Caramels

  • img_41683 Tbsp water
  • ¼ c light corn syrup
  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla paste (or extract, if you can’t find paste)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • ½ c heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Sea Salt for sprinkling

Prepare a small baking dish with parchment paper sprayed with oil.

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine water, corn syrup, sugar and vanilla. Stir to moisten the sugar, being careful not to get sugar on the sides of the pot. Heat the sugar mix over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until it reaches 320 degrees, or the sides begin to turn amber brown. Don’t stir it!!!

While the sugar is boiling, melt the butter in the microwave, and add the cream and salt and heat for 30 seconds to warm the cream. When the sugar reaches 320 degrees, pour half the cream mixture into the pan. It will boil violently. Stir with a silicon spatula, being careful not to burn your hand in the steam. After about a minute, add the remaining cream and stir. Cook the mixture over medium high heat for an additional 3-5 minutes until it reaches 240 degrees. Pour into the parchment paper oiled dish. Sprinkle with Sea Salt.  Place in the refrigerator to cool (4 hours), or the freezer (1 hr). Cut into to squares and wrap in wax paper. Makes about 30 caramels.



Moving In

The Creative Community

The dust barely had a chance to settle on my half unpacked boxes when I noticed a bunch of ladies strolling down my street, laughing, pointing (more on this later), and what’s that- are those shopping bags??? My curiosity peeked. I headed to the curb to see where the ladies were going. I noticed the home 4 doors down seemed to be having an open house of some kind, and there was a sign out front. So I moseyed on down just to see what the excitement was all about, and found a sign proclaiming that a holiday craft fair had landed squarely on our street, and just our street. What luck!   Do some holiday shopping AND I get to peek into some of my new neighbors homes? Sign me up!

Five of my crafty neighbors opened their homes and put their artistic and creative talents on display. Jewelry, embellished crosses, purses, etc. and oh yes, Caramel Sauce. I chatted with the home owner/crafters and found that I had entered a creative community. These were not the business people I had expected to be my neighbors. These were creative spirits. These were my people.   Before they even began to tell me about their creative creations for the fair, they first shared the story of their historic home.

How to be Neighborly: Be prepared to share the history of your home. When was it built? What style is it? How many people have lived there? What’s original, what’s not? You must tell this story to everyone who enters your home.

I clearly had some research to do on my own home. I put that on my to do list, which I knew I wouldn’t get to for a while. At least I had the caramel sauce to remind me… this is my version of the craft fair special.  Make, share, enjoy!

Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1.5 Tbsp whiskey (*)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and vanilla in heavy medium saucepan. Stir ingredients to combine and place on stove top over medium-high heat. DO NOT STIR.   Allow mixture to boil until syrup turns deep amber color, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 10 minutes (time will vary). Remove from heat. Pour in cream (cream will make the sugar solid and mixture will bubble vigorously). Continue to stir to melt the solid sugar into the cream. Mix in butter, bourbon, cinnamon, and salt. Cool sauce completely. Pour into a mason jar. Makes three 4oz mason jars. Seal and refrigerate. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead.)

Serve with hard salty Cheese (like Noord Hollander Aged Gouda). Yes, I said cheese. Try it. You’ll love it. If not, there’s always ice cream.

(*) I keep Evan Williams Whiskey on hand for all my baking and cooking needs. It has a strong Whiskey flavor, and is relatively inexpensive.