If I had to choose just one Christmas treat to enjoy, this would be it.
Grandma Klein’s Chocolate Caramels.
This recipe is warmly wrapped around many happy Christmas memories.
Something my daughter said made me start thinking about Christmas gifts I received as a kid. I thought I would be able to rattle off a big long list to her of things I had been given. But this brainstorming activity had very little outcome. There weren’t many things that stood out. Except for Wetsy Betsy and my first clock radio.
And my boombox.
Ahhhhh…my beloved boombox. I’m positive Mom and Dad regretted putting that package under the tree, as I rarely knew a volume softer than “extra loud”.
So, besides the boombox, what else do you think entered my mind as my brain was out for a jog?
I had a flood of memories.
And they all came down to moments. To shared experiences with special people in my life. Meaningful memories that I still possess to this day. Unlike the boombox and numerous other gifts I can no longer recall.
I smile to think about some of these Christmas memories:
- Playing at Grandma Klein’s house on Christmas day. It was filled to the brim with cousins, cousins, everywhere!
- Listening to my mom, grandma, and many aunts bustling away in the kitchen, preparing the feast. Their happy chatter and laughter could rival my boombox any day!
- Snitching Grandma Klein’s homemade chocolate caramels. Divine!
- Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus at our small town church’s Christmas program, in the same angel costume I had worn the previous year. And the year before that. AND the year before that!
- Visiting Grandpa and Grandma Renelt at their winter Florida home, celebrating with a decorated Christmas palm tree instead of our usual evergreen.
- Slurping Grandma Renelt’s heavenly oyster stew on Christmas Eve.
- Baking Christmas goodies with Mom and my sisters.
- Making homemade ice cream, taking turns cranking the pail by hand. And taking that first spoonful…yum!
- Waking up on Christmas morning to Mom’s magnificent caramel rolls.
- Indulging in just one more of Aunt June’s cream wafers or one more piece of Aunt Donna’s cranberry cake. (Yes, I have LOTS of fond food memories!)
- Listening to Grandpa Renelt or my dad read the Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Eve, the room reverently silent.
- Looking out across the farm, at the lit star Dad hung from the northward pointing peak of the barn, imagining that one bright star so many years ago…
Yes, for me, Christmas has become increasingly more about focusing on finding joy and meaning. About savoring the stuff that’s real. And passing all this good stuff (including the food!) on to my own kids.
So, here’s that recipe that I find so divine. I hope you like it, too.
Grandma Klein’s Chocolate Caramels
2 c. white sugar
1-1/2 c. corn syrup
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. butter, plus more for buttering the pan
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I use 4 squares of Baker’s brand)
1-1/2 c. chopped nuts, optional (I prefer without!)
2 tsp. vanilla
Place all ingredients except the nuts and vanilla in a heavy medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring quite constantly, until it reaches 240°. Take off heat and stir in the vanilla. Stir in nuts, if using. Pour into a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
If you prefer regular caramels, omit the chocolate.
If you want to gift these caramels, simply cut them into your desired size and wrap in wax paper.
Source: Grandma Klein’s recipe box, originally from her dad’s (my Great Grandpa Braun’s) sister, Victoria Sand
Please note: Using candy thermometers can be a tricky thing. Thermometers are known to vary, which can give you different results. When Mom makes these caramels, she cooks them to 236°, as her thermometer registers a bit differently than mine. If you want to calibrate your thermometer, to know exactly where yours sits, I found a great tutorial over at Our Best Bites. Check it out!