Old-Fashioned Caramels

Old-fashioned you say?  What makes these caramels old-fashioned?  First, the recipe calls for "oleo", I don't even know what oleo is...do you?

I had guessed it was margarine, and went to the all-knowing to find out if I was right.

Image courtesy of Etsy


Without Google I'd probably wander around aimlessly wondering how to get where, who sang that song, and I'd never finish an argument with my husband.

Anyway, oleo is indeed what people called margarine.  And maybe they still do in some parts of the world.  Not my part.

Secondly in terms of old-fashioned, this is Nanny's (Charlene to me) recipe, and this woman could churn out some awesome candies!  People looked forward to her goodies, especially around the holidays.  Sadly, when I was still young, she developed Alzheimer's and was unable to continue to make her beloved treats.  I continue on her tradition by using her recipe for caramels, and even though there are tons of amazing recipes out there-this still stands up with the best of them!

Image courtesy Google Images

Now you can substitute whatever you want, but I say stick with the original recipe and buy yourself some margarine.  Don't even bother buying the expensive margarine either.  I get the Blue Bonnet brand.  But I must confess to making one change to the original recipe; I use vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla.  I do this because I love the look of the vanilla beans.  You can use regular vanilla extract, of course!

Nanny's Old-Fashioned Caramels

-1c. granulated sugar
-1c. light brown sugar
-1/2 c. light corn syrup
-1 1/2 c. heavy cream
-1 stick oleo (haha...margarine)
-1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract

Line an 9x9 pan with parchment paper.  Spray generously with cooking spray.  Set aside and make sure it is on a heat-safe surface.

In a large heavy pot, combine all ingredients except for vanilla.  Over medium heat, stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Clip on your trusty candy thermometer.  Stir occasionally.  Once caramel reaches 225 degrees, stir constantly.  Once caramels reach 240 degrees, or to be safe take the pot off heat just under 240, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour caramel into prepared pan, being careful not to burn yourself on pot or caramel!  Let set until cool and hard enough to cut.  Cut using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, spray with cooking spray as needed to prevent sticking.  Wrap in wax paper.

Makes 48 individual caramels.  Or you know, how ever many you want to cut.

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After reading this post, my great-aunt, Connie emailed me to give the real low-down on oleo:

"Just a note to add to the oleo saga.  Oleo was first packaged in a bag with a button one would break and knead into the white solid oil (looked like crisco -- maybe it was) to give the package color. The button was pinched to release the color.    I remember at Thanksgiving in Columbus that my uncles were in charge of mixing the oleo.  They would do so by throwing the plastic bag back and forth and kneading before each throw.  When the package was sufficiently colored one would put the package back into the refrig to become hard again."

I found this information to be not only educational and intriguing, but slightly disturbing.  And while I don't think you'll find a bag of this in your local grocery store, you can still find that cheap margarine that doesn't require refrigeration and it makes for some delicious caramels!  I've also learned that when it comes to certain things, Google may be good for the short answer, but family members will always be an invaluable resource-Hello, they were actually there, you know, before Google.  Thanks Aunt Connie!