These apple cider caramels are spectacularly impressive and surprisingly easy to make. They’re simply apple cider or juice that’s boiled down with sugar and spiked with cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. So simple. So stunning.
How Else To Use Reduced Apple Cider Or Juice
The astoundingly flavorful trick of boiled cider or apple juice that’s reduced down to concentrate the flavors results in equally spectacular syrup for drizzling over pancakes or waffles when you stop reducing the syrup after it reaches 6 to 7 ounces.
Apple Cider Caramels
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 4 H
- Makes about 36 caramels
Special Equipment: A candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer
Butter an 8- or 9-inch (20- to 23-cm) square baking pan, line it with parchment paper, and then lightly butter the parchment paper.
Pour the apple juice into a large saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves, and bring to a boil. Cook steadily over low to medium heat until the juice has reduced to 4 1/2 ounces (128 grams) of honey-colored syrup. Be certain to measure the syrup by weight rather than volume to ensure accuracy. Remove the spices with a slotted spoon before weighing the syrup to get an accurate measure. The reducing of the syrup could take an hour or more depending on the size of your pan and the exact heat. It can be difficult to guess when it’s at the right weight, so occasionally strain the syrup into a measuring cup on the scale and, if needed, return the syrup and strained spices to the pot and continue to reduce. Keep a careful watch on the syrup towards the end of the reducing.
Pour the syrup into a clean 2-quart (1.9 liter) saucepan and add the butter, both sugars, and the crème fraîche. Place the pan over low heat and stir frequently until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Add the thermometer to the pan, bring to a boil, and cook at a steady, even pace, stirring from time to time, until the syrup reaches 260ºF (127°C), 20 to 30 minutes. (The syrup may hover around 220°F for a while but it will eventually shoot up to 260°F.) Do not be tempted to increase the heat under the pan to hasten the process or you’ll scorch the syrup and your caramels will have a lingering burnt taste.
Slide the pan off the heat, remove the thermometer, add the sea salt, and stir to combine with a rubber spatula. Immediately pour the syrup into the prepared pan and let it cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Using a lightly buttered sharp knife, cut the caramel into bite-size squares. If desired, add a tiny pinch of sea salt to each caramel. Place each caramel on a square or rectangle of waxed paper or parchment paper and twist the ends. Place in a resealable plastic bag and stash in the fridge for up to 1 week.
*How To Make Your Own Apple Juice
It’s not necessary to make your own apple juice for these caramels, although if you have a juicer and want to give it a twirl, you can simply press apples through your juicer and then filter the liquid through coffee filter papers. It’s that simple.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
These apple cider caramels are absolutely delicious!!! A HUGE hit with the family!!!! They’re firm yet soft and chewy with a zip of apple taste in a chewy caramel bite. Perfect.
I used unpasteurized organic apple juice and it took well over an hour for it to reduce down to 4 1/2 ounces. The simmering juice filled the house with a wonderful spicy smell of fall. I added the sugars and butter once it finally reduced down. I did weigh it since I really couldn't tell how much I had. Seems right at the end, the reduction goes very quickly....so keep an eye on it.
Once the sugar and butter melted, I cranked up the heat to a boil. It took a good 25 to 30 minutes for it to finally come to 260°F. It was frothy and bubbly and looked very good. I let it cool a few hours on the counter. Once it was room temperature, I popped the pan of caramel in the fridge for about 20 minutes and then cut it into bite-size squares.
Oh these apple cider caramels are so, so special! The apple reduction gives them a rich and delightful flavor. I used Honey Crisp apple juice and 1 star anise. The consistency was smooth and not too sticky. Perfect. After an hour in the fridge, I cut them into 42 pieces and wrapped them in 4 1/4-inch cello squares. I'm so happy to have these little lovelies for the dessert table this Thanksgiving! They'll be the star of the show!