This past weekend for me was sweeter than a drizzle of Apple Cider Caramel Sauce. I traveled to Kansas City to meet my brand new niece!
Little Genevieve Rose is five weeks old, eight pounds, and more darling than I knew a newborn could be.
It was also really special to see my sister, who is two years younger, as a mom. As the eldest in our family of three girls, for most of our lives, birth order dictated that I was the one to do things first. Whether it be braving freshman year of high school, testing our parents when I broke curfew for the first time, or diving into the college application process, taking on life’s milestones felt like an experiment, and I sometimes envied that my younger sisters had me to ask for advice. This time, however, my sister has me beat to what must be one of the greatest learning experiments of them all: motherhood.
I spent four days at my sister’s house, specifically her kitchen, filling her freezer with all kinds of casseroles, stir fries, and oatmeal breakfast bars. (The Healthy Blueberry Muffins were supposed to make it to the freezer, but we decided they tasted just a little too good fresh not to enjoy the whole batch.) It was also in her kitchen that I perfected this recipe for Apple Cider Caramel Sauce.
Apple picking (and the associated Apple Coffee Cake baking) is one of my favorite fall traditions, and I can almost never leave the orchard without a jug of fresh-pressed apple cider. I’m not usually a fan of fruit juice (most are too sweet for me), but apple cider, with its intense, fall-like flavor is an exception. I couldn’t resist picking up a half gallon at the store last week.
Sitting beside the cider on the display at the grocery store were jars of premade caramel sauce. Although I almost bought one, a quick glance at the ingredients (high fructose corn syrup being #1; regular corn syrup #3), reminded me that homemade caramel sauce is one of my favorite things to make. It’s straightforward to prepare, makes me feel like a magical candy wizard while I watch the cream and sugar transform into golden candy, and it tastes 1,000 times better than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.
This caramel sauce begins by cooking down the apple cider until it forms a thick syrup, a process that takes about 10 minutes (watch carefully towards the end so that the cider doesn’t burn). It’s worth the wait, because the cider’s flavor becomes beautifully intense and concentrated, infusing every spoonful with the sweet taste of apples. Every drizzle tastes like a caramel apple with light cinnamon spice. Pour it over your vanilla ice cream, sneak it into your coffee, and yes, dunk it with apple slices. Or, wait until tomorrow when I’ll show you what might be the very best way to use it of all.
Sorry, no spoilers. Only little Genevieve knows, and she promised me she wouldn’t tell a soul!
Apple Cider Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups apple cider
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a medium saucepan, bring the apple cider to a boil over medium high heat. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the cider reduces to a dark, thick syrup that is about 1/4 cup in volume. Watch very carefully in the last few minutes to ensure the cider doesn’t burn.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, then add the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Let bubble for 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves, then add the butter and heavy cream. Boil over medium low, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens somewhat, 3-5 minutes. The caramel will still seem fairly thin at this point. Remove from the heat completely and stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Allow the caramel to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, until it reaches a thicker but still pourable consistency (it will still be warm) or let it rest for longer to cool to a more solid, dip-like texture. Drizzle over ice cream, pie, apple slices, coffee, or just eat with a spoon.
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