This is me, creepin up behind you while you’re whisking together your Thanksgiving gravy tomorrow. This is me, whispering in your ear as you’re pouring gravy into the gravy boat. This is me, asking to lick the gravy spoon. This is me, encouraging you to set aside (hide, really) some Thanksgiving gravy to transform into salty-sweet caramels this coming weekend.
Turkey gravy, in all of its savory saltiness, in a CANDY. It’s possible, it’s delightful, it’s inspired by the Detroit ladies of BonBon Chocolate.
Think about it. You love a salted caramel. What if that salted caramel had a little more life, more umph, was feelin’ a little extra?
Listen, this time of year is no time for kale juice. We’re here to put gravy in our candy and brag about it.
Ok, here’s the thing. Making candy (we’re totally making candy) can feel intimidating. I feel it too! We’re boiling sugar to different temperatures and that’s always an adventure. Here’s what you’ll need (besides courage):
• In a small pan: heavy cream, turkey gravy, butter and salt. Yup.
• In a larger pan: granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water.
• To finish: vanilla extract and flaked sea salt.
We’ve got this!
This recipe for chewy caramels start by combining the ingredients of two hot pots.
In the first pot we’ll melt butter in heavy cream.
We’ll add salt to the buttery cream.
And! We’ll add turkey gravy. I used store bought turkey gravy for this round of testing and photography. It’s lighter in color and flavor than a darker homemade gravy. If you’re gravy is very dark, rich, and salty, you could decrease the amount of gravy in this recipe to 1/4 or 1/3 cup.
Heat the cream, butter, gravy and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is steamy. It can be removed from the heat but keep it close. We’ll add it, with care, to our boiling sugar.
Now for the second pot of hot!
To a larger pot (I used a 4 qt saucepan) we’ll add sugar.
You’ll want to use a larger pot because the mixture will bubble up and boil once the cream is added.
To the sugar we’ll add water and corn syrup.
Now… I only had dark corn syrup on hand. I would prefer light corn syrup so that’s what I’ve indicated in the recipe below. If you only have dark corn syrup on hand, I’m a believer in using what you’ve got. Ya feel me?
BOIL that sugar.
The bubbles will start on the edges of the pan and work their way inward before the whole mixture is furiously boiling.
It should go without saying that we don’t want this mixture anywhere near our bare skin.
• Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of this initial sugar boil. We want the temperature to reach at least 250 degrees F, but not to exceed 325 degrees F before adding the cream.
• Make sure that the bulb of the candy thermometer (the part that measures the temperature) is immersed in the sugar syrup. You might need to tilt the thermometer to get a read.
• Don’t stir the boiling sugar. Use a wet pastry brush to brush any sugar graduals from the side of the pan so they don’t burn.
When the sugar syrup comes to temperature, briefly remove it from the flame and quickly / gently stir in the cream, butter, gravy mixture.
Now it’s time for another boil!
We’ll add the candy thermometer and bring the mixture back to 245 to 250 degrees. I found that over medium-high heat, my caramel mixture stalled at about 225 degrees F. It just takes patience and faith, but the temperature will rise without stirring.
Remove the boiling mixture from the heat once it comes to temperature and stir in the vanilla extract.
Quickly pour the hot caramel into a parchment lined, well-greased baking pan.
Almost there! We just need time to set!
We’ll let the caramel come to room temperature an cover it lightly.
I think it’s best if the caramel sets overnight, but give it a few hours at least before slicing it.
Before slicing, I like an additional aggressive sprinkling of flaked sea salt.
We’ll use a greased knife to slice the chewy and crisp caramels and wrap them in waxed paper.
Can you taste the turkey gravy?
Well… you can’t not taste it! The gravy adds a savory, salty, umami flavor to the caramels. Once you tell people they have turkey gravy in them, their eyes light up with recognition but without knowledge, these are just deliciously salty sweet caramels.
I like to store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Some notes about this recipe:
• The base of this recipe is from The Kitchn. They have some great advice about cooking times and ratios if you find yourself feeling perplexed.
• A candy thermometer is a non-negotiable for this recipe. We need to cook the caramel to certain temperatures to get the consistency right.
• Taste your gravy before adding it to your creamy mixture just so you can gauge how much salt you’d like to add to the base and the top. Every gravy is different.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup turkey gravy
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup though dark will do in a pinch
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- First prepare the finished caramel pan. Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment so that excess paper hangs over the edges. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
- In a small saucepan, heat cream, gravy and butter. Stir until the butter melts. Add the salt and stir. Remove from the heat and keep the pan close by.
- In a medium saucepan (a 4qt saucepan will be great as the mixture will bubble up bigtime when you add the cream) combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir until the sugar is moistened though the mixture will be thick and grainy. Place over medium heat and if you notice grainy sugar crystals on the side of the pan, use a wet pastry brush to brush them down into the pan. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan slightly as it heats.
- Heat over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. Make sure the bulb of your thermometer is touching the sugar syrup for an accurate temperature read. First you'll see bubbles around the edge of the pan and the bubbles will move towards the center until the entire mixture is boiling rapidly. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn glossy and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F.
- Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream gravy butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk, gravy, butter mixture has been added.
- Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat with the candy thermometer still clipped to the side. . Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. It may take some time but the cook until the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.
- Lastly, quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel.
- Immediately pour the caramels into the prepared pan. Do not scrape the pan, just keep any burned bits on the bottom of the pan. Knock the pan with the caramel in it against the counter a few times to help air bubbles work their way out. It doesn't have to be perfectly free of bubbles, they tend to work their way out while the caramel rests.
- Set the caramels somewhere out of the way to set, for at least four hours or preferably- overnight. Once the caramels have cooled to room temperature, you can cover the pan. I simply used a kitchen towel to cover the caramels to prevent any condensation.
- When the caramel block has set, lift them out of the pan by the parchment paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a very sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cut squares of wax paper a little longer and wider than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in wax paper and twist the ends closed. Caramels will keep refrigerated for about two weeks.