I wasn’t yet tall enough to peer into the pot, but that didn’t stop me. I dragged a step stool to the stove, clambered up next to my mother, and together we dug into the bag of caramels and began unwrapping. As I struggled to free the parched cubes of caramel from their clear plastic wrap with my tiny hands, I watched my mother and wondered if I’d ever be able to unwrap them as quickly as she. One by one we tossed the candies into the double boiler. It didn’t matter how stale or hard they were—once melted, they transformed into a sticky-sweet, tooth-yanking apple coating, the very treat I’d anticipated all autumn. I’d quickly learned to expertly scrape the apple with my teeth, removing just the caramel clinging to its curves, taking only a perfunctory bite of fruit here and there.
Over the years, I’ve matured—or at least my tastes have. These days I appreciate the fruit almost as much as the caramel. But the caramel needs to be far more perfect—smooth, nuanced, made with care. Like the goat milk caramel from Fat Toad Farm.
Fat Toad Farm, the family-run goat dairy in central Vermont, turns out silken, complex caramel sauces that lean on the earthy tang of goat’s milk and the chemistry of caramelization rather than a truckload of sugar. Milk from a free-roaming herd of goats is heated and hand-stirred for hours, with just a touch of added sugar, until it’s reduced and thickened into a satiny sauce. Its nutty, floral, honeyed notes are grounded in a familiar chèvre-like tang, a lilt that’s just enough to give a peek at its provenance.
Fat Toad Farm’s caramel is a shirttail relation, at best, to the unremarkable, clumpy caramel of my youth. Yet it’s marvelous in all those old incarnations, like drizzled immodestly over ice cream. It’s also lovely spooned over pastries, fresh strawberries, and sliced pears. I also reach for the jar to bump up savory dishes like roasted delicata squash each autumn rather than fresh apples. And, for a double whammy of goat-y deliciousness, I spoon a little over a soft chèvre. But my favorite caramel delivery system? Finger-to-jar-to-mouth. Pure. Unadulterated. My six-year-old self would be proud.
Jars of Fat Toad Farm’s goat milk caramel—whether straight-up or shaded with vanilla, coffee, or cinnamon—are available for $8.95 plus shipping at fattoadfarm.com, as well as at select specialty stores throughout the country.