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Homemade Caramels with French Grey Sea Salt

[caption id="attachment_549" align="aligncenter" width="545" caption="The caramel stuck to the pan in only one place, which produced this lovely work of art."][/caption]

One of the things I'm beginning to love about the holidays is the freedom to unapologetically retreat for hours at a time to the kitchen. Today I'm preparing a rich vegetable stock with roasted vegetables and dry red wine. Tomorrow I'll use that stock for a hearty vegetarian shepherd's pie to take to a friend's house for dinner. Yesterday, though… Yesterday was a great day for caramels. Cold, rainy, and cloudy — really, what else is there do on a day like that? Cue favorite Good Will Hunting quote:

Maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.

I've made caramel before, but never with any success. It has always been a miserable fruitless endeavor that ended in a sticky mess of liquid brown stuff. Sure, it tasted alright, but it didn't look like the pictures! (And that matters, okay?)

Yesterday I gave it another go. Vance's family has a long history of making Christmas cookies and candies together. In an attempt to find some sweets we'd both enjoy to continue that tradition, I landed on a recipe for caramels. I pulled out all the stops — got out the biggest pot, the best quality local and organic ingredients, and (the key tool I was always missing in the past) a candy thermometer. I also set aside the whole afternoon, as everything I'd read told me it would take two hours of continuous stirring to get it right.

Miraculously, I ended up spending "only" one hour stirring, 15 minutes of which was taken care of by the wonderful husband. Caramels truly are a labor of love. The more love you put into them, the better they'll taste.

Finished Caramels

I'll give you one piece of advice about making caramels: Do it in the largest, heaviest pot you can find. You want a pot that heats evenly and holds more than three times the volume of liquid called for in the recipe. At its highest boil, your pot will most assuredly overflow if you pick a pot that holds any less (speaking from experience). Okay, here's another piece of advice (free of charge!): don't ever walk away from the pot. Grab a stool, turn on some Cooking Channel, and keep on stirring.

Homemade Caramels with French Grey Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from one originally found in The Atlantic magazine.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic unsalted butter
  • 4 cups organic unbleached sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 4 cups organic whole milk
  • 1 cup organic cream
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • French Grey Sea Salt (or visit the Spice and Tea Exchange for another salt of your choosing)

You'll also need a candy thermometer, a huge pot, and waxed paper. Also recommended: a stool to sit on while you stir.

Preparation

Begin melting the butter in your largest pot over

24 hours in Savannah (day 2)

[caption id="attachment_452" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Honey for sale at the Savannah Bee Co."][/caption]

Sentient Bean

I was about out of steam after Circa 1875 Saturday night, but a long night's rest and a walk through the chilly fall morning to Sentient Bean woke me right up. Forsyth Park is lined with beautiful, historic homes, many of which have been converted to Inns. Vance and I pointed at all the ones that would make the perfect Bed & Breakfast location, bouncing ideas off one another about what we'd serve, where people would sit to eat their homemade popovers and scones, how expensive the renovation would be…

At the end of the park sits Sentient Bean, another one of those businesses where we get to vote with our dollars. To put it bluntly, their coffee isn't brewed off the backs of underpaid growers living in poverty. And their all-vegetarian menu is sourced from sustainable sources. Awareness of the products they serve and the story behind those products is ingrained in their name; Sentient: having sense of perception; conscious. Which is a happy change from some of the coffee houses we're used to. (Pro tip: Skip the biscotti).

[caption id="attachment_449" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="A solid hour of reading at Sentient Bean preceded a sugar rush at River Street Sweets"][/caption]

River Street Sweets

Our trip couldn't have been complete without me getting to try some of the city's best saltwater taffy. So Vance and I made the trek out to River Street Sweets, the happiest tourist trap you could ever get sucked into. I picked up a hunk of chocolate to nibble as we walked along the stone road toward lunch, and finally tried a piece of butterscotch taffy after my fudge had disappeared. Incredible. I don't know what I've been thinking all my life, trading taffy for Crunch bars the morning after Halloween.

Firefly Cafe

Our last stop was far from a tourist trap. We ended up at the Firefly Cafe, after a couple of our other lunch choices failed to be open on Sundays (good for them)! The tiny restaurant is buzzing with conversation and friendly faces; you can tell most of the people sitting there live within a mile walk of the place.

[caption id="attachment_458" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Sunday Brunch at the Firefly Cafe is the place to be in this corner of Savannah."][/caption]

Turn down the coffee in favor of a bloody mary, and if you're avoiding meat, go for the Greek Omelette with a side of creamy grits like you can only find in the South. The menu is a little sparse in terms of vegetarian options, but this one was a real flavor parade.

Savannah Bee Co.

One of my new favorite spots in Savannah has got to be the Savannah Bee Company. If you think honey is just honey (as I did until about a year ago), you should make a

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