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.
These apple cider caramels are ridiculously rich, superlatively smooth, and wildly easy to make. They’re essentially just apple cider or juice that’s boiled down with sugar and subtly spiked with cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. The only thing easier than tossing these together is saying “you’re welcome” when friends and family effusively thank you for gifting them these caramels. Originally published November 26, 2016.–Angie Zoobkoff
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.
Special Equipment: A candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer
Apple Cider Caramels
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 4 H
- Makes about 36 caramels
- 1 quart cloudy unpasteurized apple juice, apple cider, or freshly squeezed and filtered apple juice*
- 1 cinnamon stick, or more to taste
- 1 to 2 star anise, or more to taste
- 2 whole cloves, or more to taste
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 oz), diced, plus more for the pan
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche (do not substitute sour cream)
- Pinch fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1. 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.
- 2. 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.
- 3. 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.
- 4. 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.
- 5. 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.