Impromptu caramels and fruit mince.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aaah, first day of school holidays and finally everything seems to be slowing down a teeny bit. Only a teeny bit mind you, but enough for a breather. And a chance to make these caramels. I hadn’t planned on making these sweet, sticky squares of smoky, sexy goodness but luckily my reluctance to throw food out meant that a carton of cream nearing its expiry date got a new lease on life.

At first, I’d though about using the cream in a caramel sauce, but when I was looking at different recipes, David Lebovitz’s salted butter caramels(toffees) crossed my path. Well, hello! I was hooked.

I’m not much of a candy maker but the recipe seemed simple enough (provided you own a sugar thermometer and are comfortable working with caramel). The overall process worked a treat and the end result was sensational, I used golden syrup instead of corn syrup, and Murray River pink salt instead of fleur de sel. I did have a problem getting the foil lining off my sticky caramels though,  because instead of using oil/cooking spray I rubbed the oil on with some crumpled kitchen paper. In the end I had to cut off quite a lot of foil. David has a wonderful tip for cutting the caramel, involving the use of a knife heated on the gas hob first. This step was quite slow and painstaking but definitely worth it.

The caramels are not as sweet as they appear, MC Senior loved them and couldn’t stop raving about them, but MC Junior licked one and went “blearghh!”. More for us then, might as well make the most of it before her palate matures!

 I love how the sweeties looked so pretty all wrapped up and I’m definitely making more soon to give away.

While the caramels were unplanned, I’d decided that this year I would make my own fruit mince/ mincemeat to go into mince pies. I’ve never been a big fan of mince pies before but I ate a few good ones last year, and thought how much better home-made ones would taste. So far, I’ve only managed to make the mince, but mmmmm, mince is good.

I based my mincemeat very loosely on a Stephanie Alexander recipe, but swapped a few ingredients and omitted the lard. Traditionally, fruit mince, also known as mincemeat, did actually contain meat. Modern day versions omit the meat, but some still use lard. Apparently the lard gives the mincemeat a lovely sheen and mouthfeel, but I’m not so convinced. I figure I can always wrap some extra buttery pastry round the mince to give it richness ;).

And if you’re not interested in the mincemeat I made, check out Rosa’s mincemeat, and Fiona’s mincemeat. Everyone’s making mincemeat this year! Must be something in the air.

Hope your Christmas/ holiday plans are shaping up well. See you real soon :)

Mincemeat with kumquats and rum
(Traditional mincemeat uses candied peel and brandy. I had a jar of home made kumquats in syrup - I simply poured boiling water over the kumquats, made a heavy sugar syrup and put the kumquats in a sterilised glass jar with the hot syrup, sealed it, cooled it, then stored it in the fridge. Six months later, the kumquats were mellow and ready to use. I hadn’t planned on using them for mincemeat, I just hadn’t decided what to do with them for 6 months! I also used currants instead of raisins because I actually don’t really like raisins or sultanas.)

(Begin the day before and allow time for mincemeat to mature)

4 apples (I used 3 granny smith and 1 pink lady) - peel, core and cut into matchsticks
300g currants
handful of craisins (dried cranberries)
half cup of chopped candied kumquats
200g brown sugar
100g demerara sugar
1/4 cup rum (Mt. Gay if you must know), and a splash of Cointreau
pinch of salt
ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cloves (I didn’t really measure these, I kind of just grated and sprinkled and eyeballed).

On the first day, cook the apples gently (add teeny amount of water if necessary) then cool, cover and store overnight. I actually just put the apples in a microwave safe jug and cooked in short bursts.

The next day, mix all ingredients together with apple and store in an airtight container in the fridge, leave for a few weeks to mature. Mine is about a week old, and I used a large glass jar which I had cleaned well with hot soapy water then dried in a warm oven.

 I shook the jar every day just to make sure the mixture was “even”. I’m planning to use this soon so I don’t know how long it will keep. But if processed properly in sterilised jars, mincemeat should store for a long time.

I’ve already tasted a little bit of the mincemeat and it’s definitely a keeper. The citrus zing from the kumquats add a really interesting note, and don’t stint on the allspice, it really comes to the fore here.


Hungry Dog said...

We are in sync! I just tried caramel recently for the first time. I love the sound of these salted caramels, will have to try. Happy holidays, shaz!

Emma @CakeMistress said...

Ooh, I love your recipe for fruit mince! Rum, cointreau, cumquats and cranberries sounds like a refreshing new twist.
Keen on having some salted caramels in my life soon too after those pics :)

Beth said...

I can't decide which looks tastier -- the mince or the caramels. Guess I'll have some of both!

grace said...

i have to get really revved up and motivated before i attack something like caramels. well, making them, that is. eating them requires no spurring. :)

Barbara said...

The caramels look lovely, Shaz. Nice and dark. I've only made them once before, but they were excellent. I used Ina Garten's recipe. I'll check out David's recipe and compare.
I give you great credit for making your own mincemeat. Perhaps I would like mince pies better if the mincemeat were homemade!

Karen said...

Yum, those are some tasty looking caramels! Whoever gets these as a gift is very lucky.:-)

pierre said...

hello shaz !
even they stick to the teeth I love caramels!!pierre

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

I'm hooked here Shaz! Hehehe ;)

Merry Christmas!!! :D

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Oh you....lovely caramaels but it is the mince meat that has me. And I know we're on the same wavelenght cause I made a super delicious kumquat marmalade with vanilla powder and rum - heavenly, hence a repeat this week!!!!!!! Your take looks delicious. Have a blessed holiday season and hope you get some rest :-), from school runs if nothing else!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

And I have some Mt Gay rum, purchased in Barbados............... Clink

shaz said...

Thanks everyone, sorry been slack at commenting, trying to actually get my Christmas baking started but been distracted. Made another batch of caramels today, (doubled) flavoured with cloves and orange. Mmmmmm...