The topic for the December 7th installment of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by Thomas MacEntee is: "Christmas Grab Bag. Author’s choice! Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!!"
In a previous post, I mentioned that my Grandfather, Rolland Victor Phend, had been an apprentice at a bakery before he enlisted in the Army during WWI. He learned to make the usual pies, cakes and cookies but our favorite, by far, was his candy! He made it year round but Christmas was a time when he was especially busy with the candy making. Most of it he gave away or donated to church bake sales but we got our share too. We so looked forward to this time of year and couldn't hardly wait to get a taste of the caramels, turtles and cashew glace. He also made chocolate fudge, fondant, candy canes and taffy but my preference was always for the caramels, turtles and cashew glace.
Grandpa would "hide" the candy in his closet, which also happened to be the downstairs bathroom. That may sound kind of weird but the bathroom was really just the toilet - no sink or shower (you'd go to the kitchen to wash your hands after using the toilet). It was a very large room and the toilet was on the opposite side from where the candy was kept. The main reason he kept the candy there was because the room was cool. No heating ducts went into that room. It got enough warm air when the door was left open so that it didn't freeze, but it was a bit chilly; no one lingered long in that bathroom! Except when we were looking for the candy, although it wasn't really hidden. He always left some out in plain sight so we could easily grab a few pieces.
One year, I don't remember exactly when - I had graduated from high school and was working in Fort Wayne - I was allowed to "help" him make some caramels and turtles. I did measure out some of the ingredients, but mostly I just watched. Though he did let me dip the caramel-pecan mixture in the chocolate to make the turtles. His basic technique was to measure out all of the ingredients first, putting the dry ingredients on separate pieces of wax paper. Then when the sugar or salt or whatever was needed all he had to do was pick up the wax paper and slip the ingredients into the pan. I thought that was neat. It was convenient and also cut down considerably on the number of dishes that would have to be washed later!
On December 14, 1963 grandpa's talents were highlighted in an article in the Warsaw Times-Union (published in Warsaw, Kosciusko County, Indiana). The pictures below are scans of photocopies from that article so they aren't very good as far as quality goes, but they are all I have. For whatever reason we never took any pictures of grandpa in the kitchen. That's the cashew glace he's holding in the right picture.
Several years ago I made Grandpa's caramels and cashew glace for Christmas presents for my immediate family (mother, brothers, sister, nieces and nephews). They turned out okay, and everyone enjoyed them, but they were not quite the same as I remember Grandpa's. I don't know what happened to his recipes, perhaps one of his daughters or his son has them. These two recipes were published in the 1963 article mentioned above. No substituting allowed!
Grandpa Vic's Vanilla Caramels
In a large heavy pan, combine one cup granulated sugar, one cup light corn syrup, and one cup heavy cream. Stir occasionally, cook to 232 degrees. Add (while stirring constantly) 2 tablespoons butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons evaporated milk. Cook to 240 degrees, then take from heat. Add one teaspoon of vanilla and stir only enough to mix. Pour into a greased or buttered baking dish (a standard sized cookie sheet with side walls works quite well). Let this cool then cut into bite size pieces. Wrap the individual pieces in wax paper. Keep in a cool, dry area.
Turtles can be made by pouring the caramel mixture over pecan halves place in the bottom of the baking dish or cookie sheet. After cooling, cut the pecan/caramel mixture into squares, shape into turtles, then dip in melted chocolate. yum-o.
Grandpa Vic's Cashew Glace
In a large heavy pan, combine 2 cups granulated sugar, ½ cup light corn syrup, ½ cup water. Cook together to 270 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons butter, ½ teaspoon of salt. Stirring to keep from sticking until temperature reaches 300 degrees. Take from heat and add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 cups of unsalted cashews. Pour into a greased cookie sheet, pressing flat with the spoon or your hands. Let mixture harden, then break apart into pieces. Store in an airtight container, though it won't last long. Enjoy!