Jamie’s Caramels

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No, that’s not me – just a photo I found, that shows the milk bottles like we had.

 

Glass Cases & Drugstore Countertops

When I was attending Parker-Egin Elementary school we had the most amazing school lunches. The first few years of my educational lunchtimes included semi-cold milk, served in half-pint sized bottles, secured with cardboard tops which we drank with little white paper straws; and with which we also blew air into the bottles so that the liquid bubbled up like a miniature milky volcano. (Later on, milk came in cartons, and students would place detested vegetable in the empty carton in hopes of it being missed by the sixth-grade food monitors, who would send you back to eat your veggies if they found them.) Along with the milk, we received food. Real food. Homemade food, and with every meal some sort of bread. Homemade slices of bread slathered in butter, warm rolls fresh from the oven, and sometimes, on Fridays, cinnamon rolls, always served in conjunction with chilli. Turkey with potatoes and gravy, spaghetti, and sometimes pizza were some of the main dishes; and of course, there was a serving of some sort of vegetable or fruit to go with it. I was never too keen to eat the vegetables, but the rest of it was good. Two sisters, Loretta Forbush and Karen Hansen provided the goodness that was school lunch, from first grade through sixth grade, I enjoyed what I didn’t know was an anomaly in the realms of school lunches. But I learned.

Along with the milk, we received food. Real food. Homemade food, and with every meal some sort of bread. Homemade slices of bread slathered in butter, warm rolls fresh from the oven, and sometimes, on Fridays, cinnamon rolls, always served in conjunction with chili. Turkey with potatoes and gravy, spaghetti, and sometimes pizza were some of the main dishes; and of course, there was a serving of some sort of vegetable or fruit to go with it. I was never too keen to eat the vegetables, but the rest of it was good. Two sisters, Loretta Forbush and Karen Hansen provided the goodness that was school lunch, from first grade through sixth grade, I enjoyed what I didn’t know was an anomaly in the realms of school lunches. But I learned.

The year I went to junior high school, I learned. There wasn’t a cafeteria in the old South Fremont Jr. High, and we walked across the street and through the block to Central Elementary — and all elementary school lunch cooks are not created equal. I ate there when I had to, but as often as I was able, I took advantage of the open-campus policy, and headed “uptown” for lunch. If you walked fast, you could hit either Later’s Market, or Scotty’s IGA grocery stores to pick up something for lunch; or you could spend your fifty cents for a pastry and a half-pint of chocolate milk at the bakery, it was difficult choosing from all of the flakey, buttery, sugary goodness was displayed in glass cases —but you had to walk fast to avoid the inevitable line at the bakery.  If you were feeling flush, you could spring for a cheeseburger, fries, and soda at the lunch counter at one of the two local drugstores, spinning on the bar stools as you waited for your order to be placed on the counter in front of you. I usually didn’t have the funds for the cheeseburger and fries option, but, I could swing the less expensive meal of a grilled cheese (which came with a small bag of potato chips and a dill pickle) and a drink. If I happened to have extra $$$$, I would splurge on a shake. I always chose the same flavor: half caramel – half marshmallow. My friends thought I was strange, but that is still my favorite flavor for a milkshake.  In fact, it would be a toss-up between caramel and chocolate for my favorite flavor given an ultimatum; but together they are amazing.  A banana split made with vanilla ice cream, dripping with chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow, topped with whipped cream, chopped pecans, and a cherry on top, is the perfect dessert.

If you were feeling flush, you could spring for a cheeseburger, fries, and soda at the lunch counter at one of the two local drugstores, spinning on the bar stools as you waited for your order to be placed on the counter in front of you. I usually didn’t have the funds for the cheeseburger and fries option, but, I could swing the less expensive meal of a grilled cheese (which came with a small bag of potato chips and a dill pickle) and a drink. If I happened to have extra $$$$, I would splurge on a shake. I always chose the same flavor: half caramel – half marshmallow. My friends thought I was strange, but that is still my favorite flavor for a milkshake.  In fact, it would be a toss-up between caramel and chocolate for my favorite flavor given an ultimatum; but together they are amazing.  A banana split made with vanilla ice cream, dripping with chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow, topped with whipped cream, chopped pecans, and a cherry on top, is the perfect dessert.

And that brings us (the long way round) to today’s recipe, Jamie’s Caramels. Jamie was a girl I worked with, and at Christmastime, she brought in caramels to share, and said they were easy to make, and didn’t take much time.  Given my own experience with making caramel, and standing over a stove for what felt like hours and hours, I was interested.  She was right, it didn’t take much time, and they are delicious.

Jamie’s Caramels

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (not margarine)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

2 1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Butter baking dish (I used a 9”x13” glass baking pan).

Directions:   

Put all ingredients, except vanilla, in large microwave safe bowl:

1 – Heat on high five minutes; stir

2- Heat on high five minutes; stir

3- Heat on high five minutes; stir

4- Heat on high TWO minutes; stir

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla (and finely chopped pecans if you want them). Pour into buttered pan; let cool two hours. Cut into pieces and wrap in waxed paper.

For caramel apples, reduce cooking time by two minutes. Dip apples in warm caramel, then quickly roll in chopped nuts. Place on wax paper to cool.