Monday, December 17, 2012

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

You know what's great about the holiday season? Being able to give and share things with the people you love. And while I love giving gifts (Lord knows I've overspent myself this year), there's something special about giving something home-made.

So over the next week, I'm challenging myself to write a post every day with goodies that I'm giving to friends and sharing to family. I mean... I gotta make up for the severe lack in posting over the past couple months... right? Actually, a big part of it is also to see if I can actually do it; it will definitely be a challenge because I am very busy this week!

Can you see all those vanilla bean flecks? YUM! I think this vanilla bean caramel sauce is one of the most fantastic things to give to friends. Who can go wrong with caramel sauce? Warm it up and top some ice cream with it, drizzle it on cookies or brownies, heck- eat it out of the jar (I have been known to do so, and I'm not ashamed). This is a wonderfully easy caramel recipe to make, and if you've had difficulties with caramel in the past, try this one!

Check out my post on Apple Caramel Cake to see where I've used this caramel sauce before!

Yield: about 2 cups or 10 4 oz. jars (although I only filled them with 3 oz.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or the seeds from 1 1/2 vanilla bean pods

If you've ever done canning before, you know you need to boil the jars and lids you're using to not only sterilize them, but to keep them hot so that when you fill them with whatever you're using (ie. caramel sauce, jam, salsa, fruit, etc.) a proper seal can be created. The seal is what keeps air out and helps preserve the filling (amongst other things). So, before you start with the caramel sauce, fill a large pot of water with 10 mason jars, with the lids off. Make sure that they are completely submerged under the water. In another smaller pot, cover the lids and screw tops with water. Bring both pots to a boil and keep the jars and lids in the pots until you are ready to fill them.

For the caramel, in a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat quickly and add the cream slowly. While adding the cream, make sure to whisk the mixture constantly, but be careful, as it bubbles up ferociously. Once the bubbles have subsided, add in the butter cubes and stir until butter is melted. Add in the vanilla bean paste and stir until thoroughly combined.

Carefully pour desired amount of caramel sauce into each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars to ensure that there is nothing in the way to prevent the lids from sealing properly.

If you don't can the caramel sauce, you can save it,  tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to several weeks (not sure on an exact time line, I've had it up to 3 weeks later and it was completely fine). Unfortunately, as this is the first time I've canned caramel sauce, I'm not entirely sure how long it lasts, or if it needs to be refrigerated. I'm refrigerating mine to be safe, but I imagine that while the seal remains unbroken, it should last for quite a long time.   Pin It

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