These Apple Cider Caramels are soft, sweet, and absolutely full of apple flavor! They’re sprinkled with flaky salt for a perfect sweet treat.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own candy. I always feel way more successful after an awesome batch of caramel or toffee than I do about a great batch of cookies – but the truth is, there’s no need for it to feel like an accomplishment, because it’s really not that hard!
(But you should still totally feel great about making these, because they’re awesome and everyone will love ’em).
As long as you have an accurate candy thermometer, you’re in business. Candy does require a close eye, but only for a few minutes, and it all comes together so quickly that as long as you have all your ingredients put together before you start the recipe, you’ll be golden.
The one time consuming part of this recipe is reducing the cider, which is also easily the most important part. It takes about 45 minutes (in my case, this may vary about 10 minutes in either direction), but doesn’t require a close eye, just a few stirs every once in a while. What you get after reducing for 45 minutes is the ultimate apple-y syrup that tastes ridiculously incredible.
A great apple cider really is key here. You don’t want to use some lame apple juice – you want good, fresh from the apple farm cider. I used a brand called Lattin’s which is made super close to me and is some of the best apple cider I’ve probably ever tasted. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend trying to get your hands on it. It’s freshly made by hand with no preservatives or sweeteners and literally tastes like biting an apple. Heavenly!
Your caramel is going to taste like a potent version of whatever apple cider you use, so make sure it’s a good one! Scour your grocery’s refrigerated section for some fresh cider, or try and find it at a local farmer’s market. Just make sure it’s delicious!
After you reduce your apple cider, you’re left with a thick syrup, to which you add all the normal caramel ingredients and watch magic happen in just 5 minutes of simmering. Your house will smell like fall in the best way possible, I promise!
After letting your caramel harden up, add just a sprinkle of Maldon flaky sea salt (so, so highly recommended! I get mine from Vitacost). If you don’t have flaky sea salt, use a little less of a coarse sea salt.
These slice up into little squares quite nicely with a super sharp knife or my recommended method, using a pizza cutter! Wrap them in parchment squares, and you have the most adorable little caramels ever. These apple cider caramels are the perfect gift, or the perfect sweet treat to grab when you just need some sugar. They taste like a burst of fall in your mouth, and who doesn’t want that?!
Give ’em a go – I doubt you’ll be disappointed you did! Enjoy!
Apple Cider Caramels
- 4 cups apple cider
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon, or less of a finer one (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
- 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Boil the apple cider in a 3-to-4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume. Stir every 10 minutes or so. This took me about 45 minutes.
- While the cider is reducing, prepare and measure out the rest of your ingredients. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment. Set aside.
- Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it to ensure the caramel doesn't burn.
- If you don’t have a candy or deep- fry thermometer, have a bowl of very cold water ready, and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball.
- Immediately remove caramel from heat once it reaches temperature and add cinnamon and salt. Stir the mixture. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, or faster in the fridge.
- Once caramel is firm, use the parchment paper to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled knife or pizza cutter to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.
- Caramels keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks, or in the fridge for a month.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
P.S. I used my Vitacost Refer-A-Friend link above – if you use it, we both get $10 off!