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Homemade pumpkin caramels may sound unusual, but they marry two flavors that signify the fall season. Give pumpkin caramels as gifts or offer a platter of these delicious treats at your Halloween or Thanksgiving gatherings.

Homemade Pumpkin Caramels

Preparation time: 40 minutes plus 1 hour to cool

Yield: 2 pounds or about 85 pieces

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 ounce shortening

7-1/2 ounces (1/2 of 15-ounce can) pure pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon sage

Pinch of salt

  1. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick paper.

    Nonstick paper can be wax paper or parchment paper. The finished caramel should be about 3/4 inch. If you want the pieces to be thicker, use a smaller pan.

  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, shortening, pumpkin, salt, and spices in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend and to ensure that all the sugar dissolves.

  3. When the mixture comes to a boil (after about 25 minutes), it will boil up because of the milk and cream content. Be careful not to boil over. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash sugar crystals down the inside of the pot. Clip thermometer to the side of the pot, being sure that the tip doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot, and continue to boil over low heat.

    Washing down the sugar crystals that form on the inside of the pot is important if you want smooth caramels. Otherwise, you'll end up with grainy, gritty candy.

  4. The batch will boil up and then back down to its cooking level. Stir the mixture continuously after the level lowers. Don’t allow the batch to scorch.

  5. When the batch reaches 234 degrees F (after another 15 to 16 minutes, but watch the thermometer), remove it from the heat and remove the thermometer.

  6. Pour the batch into the baking pan. Allow the batch to cool for about 1 hour or more at room temperature; then cut it into 3/4-inch squares. If desired, wrap each piece in a square of wax paper, to prevent pieces from sticking to each other.

This recipe produces an excellent caramel that’s delicious just as it is, or you may use it for dipping apples or for a cluster with pecans!

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