Turn Leftover Apple Cider Into a Batch of Caramels

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Around this time of year, it’s common for me to be tired of drinking apple cider, yet also have a large quantity of it sitting in my fridge. I love the flavor and the smell, and it still gives me all the cozy winter vibes. I just won’t drink it anymore. Instead, I’ll eat it. Get rid of that leftover gallon of apple cider by transforming it into apple cider caramels.

The way I see it, there’s always room for candy, and this procedure is dead simple. Using the same reduction technique that I described for making apple cider pancake syrup, boil the apple cider in a large pot, over medium-high heat, without a lid. The water will slowly evaporate over the course of about two hours. It’s fairly passive; just walk by it every 30 minutes or so and give it a stir. After it reduces to roughly two cups of liquid, the cider will have a dense layer of bubbles on top.

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Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

At this point you could stop, and let it cool, and you’d have a delicious, pourable syrup, but keep going to make caramels. Continue to heat and stir more frequently, using a rubber spatula to make firm contact with the bottom and sides of the pot. You’re looking for a thick mass of fine bubbles, and a temperature of 240°F. I’d like to say you can eyeball-it, but a candy thermometer really does help here. The last 15 minutes are a slow climb to 240°F (this is called the soft-ball stage in sugar working), so a thermometer can help you avoid over or undercooking.

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Turn off the heat and stir in a small amount of butter and ground cinnamon. I started with a gallon of apple cider and used two tablespoons of butter, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour the caramel mixture into a small casserole dish or loaf pan that has been heavily buttered and lined with parchment paper. I used a Pyrex loaf pan, oiled it, and crossed two strips of parchment paper along the bottom. Let cool for 10 minutes at room temperature, then place the caramels in the fridge for two hours to set.

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Once set, lift the mass of caramel out of the container and cut it into bite-sized pieces with a well-buttered knife. If the caramel sticks to the dish, use a buttered spoon or knife to loosen it. Be sure to butter the blade of the knife in between each cut to keep the caramel from sticking to it. These sweet treats are a fantastic second life for your apple cider. They have a soft, chewy texture somewhere between caramel and Turkish delight, a deeply tangy apple flavor, and the hint of cinnamon adds a mellow warmth. Wrap these candies in tiny individual wax paper squares, or toss them in a light coating of cornstarch to keep them from sticking to each other. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container on the counter for six to nine months.

Soft Apple Cider Caramels

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon apple cider

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Butter a loaf pan, or small casserole dish, and line it with parchment paper.

In a large pot, boil the apple cider over medium-high heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the cider has reduced to roughly one sixth of its volume it will start to foam. Continue to heat, stirring more frequently until the syrup reaches a temperature of 240°F on your candy thermometer. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and cinnamon until fully incorporated.

Pour the caramel mixture into the prepared pan. Let it cool for 10 minutes at room temperature. Put the dish into the fridge to set completely, about 2 hours. Once set, cut the caramels with a buttered knife. Wrap them individually in wax paper, or toss them in a light coating of cornstarch to keep them from sticking to each other.

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