This recipe is inspired by summer memories of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), which takes places the last two weeks of August every year in Vancouver. The PNE has been a Vancouver tradition since 1910 when it was founded, and it now welcomes more than three million people every year. For many families in BC, the fair is a tradition, and each person must stop at his or her favourite food court stand, whether it be the mini-donuts, whales’ tails, cotton candy or caramel apples. The next time you are craving a taste of summer and you can’t make it to the PNE, try this recipe.
1 lb dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 x 10 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 apples, such as Macintosh or Granny Smith, stems removed, washed and dried
8 wooden sticks such as craft sticks, popsicle sticks or even chopsticks
Combine brown sugar, butter, condensed milk, corn syrup and salt in a heavy-bottomoed pot over medium-low heat and stir slowly but continually to dissolve sugar until it reaches a temperature between 234F and 240F (112C-115C) on a candy thermometer, or the soft-ball stage (see tips below). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and whipping cream and pour into a clean metal bowl. Cool until caramel is 200F (95C), about 15 minutes.
While caramel is cooling, line a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper and push a stick into the stem end of each apple. Dip apples in caramel and let excess caramel drip off before setting on the greased paper. Cool before eating. Chill any uneaten apples, wrapped in cellophane, up to 1 week.
If your apples are quite waxy, dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds to remove the wax, and dry very well.
Once the caramel apples have set, dip them into melted chocolate for an extra decadent Halloween treat. You can also roll them in chopped nuts, candy sprinkles or crushed candy bars.
The soft-ball stage is a candy test where you drop a little syrup in cold water, and as the syrup cools, if forms a soft ball that flattens when it is removed from the water.
Chef Marilyn’s notes: Every year since my boys were young, We’ve gone to the PNE. It’s a fun family tradition we kept up until the boys were late teens, where we would drive into Vancovuer from White Rock (hours drive at least) park, walk around, see the cows (20 minutes) and get back in our car and drive home. : ) We soon learned the tradition had run its course! But we have fond memorials and do drop in once in a while for old time sake. LOVE THE WHALES TALES!! and it smells much better now!! ha ha
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