I’m not a huge fan of candy, unless we’re talking about chocolate candy. I don’t do fruit candy, tart candy or mint candy.
That said, occasionally, I do like caramel (usually with chocolate) or since the season is right, with apples! Ready-made caramel apples can cost a lot and they don’t taste that good. You can make some homemade organic caramel apples for much less, plus it’s a fun Halloween cooking activity for you and the kids.
Ingredients for homemade organic caramel apples:
Apples – I like red delicious or honey crisp apples for caramel apples. Once in a while I’ll use granny smith apples. Most people make candy apples with the tartest apples they can find, which helps offset the overly sweet red candy coating. However, with caramel apples you don’t always have to go so tart, because caramel is more subtle than candy coating.
Basically, you can choose any firm organic apple you like. Note: Softer apples (like gala) don’t work as well IMO because you want a crisp texture to match the caramel flavor.
Caramel – You can make homemade organic caramel – for dipping or pouring but it’s a lot of stirring.
Here’s one easy homemade caramel recipe. You need 1 cup heavy organic cream, 3/4 cup light corn syrup (or corn syrup alternative), 1/2 organic cup butter, 1 cup organic brown sugar, 1 teaspoon Fair Trade, organic vanilla extract. Before heating, whisk together all the cream, corn syrup, butter and brown sugar in your pan. Slowly bring this to a boil over medium heat. You have to stir the WHOLE time.
After about 8 minutes or so you’ll see that the caramel is starting to look ballish (what’s commonly called the soft-ball stage). To be sure it’s ready to coat, drop a tablespoon of the mixture into a cup of icy cold water. If the caramel forms a solid, but flexible ball, it’s done. At this point stir in vanilla. At this point you can also add a different, additional extract if you like, such as orange or lavender. Get the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit before dipping your apples. More on the actual caramel apple making process below.
See one homemade option sans corn syrup – I have not tried this on apples though.
You don’t have to make homemade caramel though. There are a few organic ready-made caramel options on the market.
King’s Cupboard makes a certified organic caramel sauce that’s good for pouring over already sliced apples. There’s also another vegan caramel, which I haven’t used, so I can’t speak for their consistency melted, but may be a good option for, yup, vegans.
Toppings (if wanted) – such as chopped, Fair Trade nuts (unsalted), candy sprinkles for the kids, small chocolate dots, piped chocolate designs and so on. For Halloween you can really get creative with your toppings if you choose or go plain (I like plain). If you like toppings you may want to try:
- Crushed up Newman’s Own Organics O’s – basically organic Oreo cookies – very popular at my house.
- Toasted organic coconut.
- Ground or chopped up organic, Fair Trade chocolate or organic chocolate sprinkles.
- Carnival Sprinkelz – These colorful sprinkles contain organic evaporated cane juice, organic corn malt syrup, water and natural colors made from extracts of seeds, vegetables or fruits.
- Chopped organic nuts – it’s nice if you can find Fair Trade nuts too, but in the USA, a good variety of Fair Trade, organic nuts are extremely difficult to hunt down. Sun Organic Farm offers many organic nuts as does Tierra Farm.
Tools you’ll need:
- Recycled content foil or a silicone mat
- Some sort of sustainable stick – try bamboo skewers or real twigs (fallen and clean of course). If you make a little hole with a knife first, a reusable ice pop mold stick will even work – and it’s easy for kids to hold.
How to make homemade caramel apples:
Wash your organic apples. If you’ve made caramel apples in the past, you may notice that caramel sometimes slides off the apple, not sticking. This is one, because your caramel is too hot, too watery OR it’s the wax on the apples. With organic apples you shouldn’t have the wax issue but if your apples are very clean and dry, you’ll have the best results with the caramel sticking correctly.
After cleaning your apples, stick them with whatever sticks you’re using.
- If you’re making homemade sauce, do that now.
- If you’re using organic caramel candies to make your sauce, you need to place about 12-14 oz caramel candies with two tablespoons water and 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract into saucepan. Melt it down slowly, on low heat, stirring the whole time until a saucy consistency is reached.
- If you’re using jarred sauce heat it up.
Once your sauce is ready, it’s time to dip. I’m notoriously bad at making pretty candy. I want to make pretty caramel apples and organic chocolate covered cherries, but I just suck at it (I don’t know how Martha Stewart does it). My candy items taste good, but never look picture perfect. Hopefully, you’re more graceful than me.
In any case, you should carefully but quickly dip the apple into the caramel sauce. I’ve had pretty good luck when I move fast, however, it’s hard because you’re working with very hot caramel and fast + careful don’t go together. After dipping, try to scrap any excess off the bottom of the apple using a knife or the side of the pan. Place your apples on a sheet of foil (on a pan) or on a silicone mat.
Another option is to sort of hold and twirl an apple over the caramel pan, while ladling sauce onto the apple.
If using toppings here’s a tip – don’t dip apples into a bowl of toppings (like sprinkles). I did that once and the apples were WAY too coated in sprinkles. Instead pour the topping lightly onto a dinner plate and role the apple around the plate.
Chill and then eat or cut and eat. Chilling helps the caramel to set, but you can store finished caramel apples at room temp. I think they taste better at room temp too. If you’re wrapping them for a party, I’d wait for the caramel to set entirely before wrapping them, or the caramel may become a drippy mess.
There’s not a great eco-friendly way to wrap caramel apples which is why I’d never make them to go – just at home. However, if you do need them to be transport friendly, you can pick up some cardboard apple transport boxes.
Bowl-style caramel apples:
Personally I always cut up caramel apples as I don’t like to try to chomp a whole apple. In fact, in my opinion a better way to make caramel apples is bowl-style. To make caramel apples in a bowl, cut your apples first, dip them in lemon juice, place in the bowl, pour the hot caramel over them and then whatever topping you choose. You can chill apples in a bowl, but I like them served warm. This is MUCH easier than eating off a stick. Plus, you don’t have to worry about making them look pretty!
Oh, and by the way, I don’t like candy apples. I only like the caramel ones, so I don’t ever make red candy apples. However if cinnamon-minded apples are your deal, I’ve posted some homemade options below. Just remember to switch out conventional ingredients for organic.
Image ©Olga Lyubkin via Fotolia