As to caramels
For caramel, light, clean brown sugar that has no woody or strong taste, and the best Puerto Rico molasses are necessary. Take one cup of molasses and one heaping cup of brown sugar. Put the mixture to boil on the back of the stove where it will not burn and boil briskly till it is stringy as it falls from the spoon. From fifteen to twenty minutes of boiling brings it to the right point for adding the chocolate.
For the quantity named, two ounce squares of plain chocolate should be grated or scraped, more giving the bitter flavor sometimes noticed in confections and blancmanges. After stirring in the dry chocolate, simmer for five minutes, but do not boil briskly. Then take off the fire and add one tablespoonful of very thick cream, which gives the softness of flavor to fine caramels. (No milk if you want anything worth eating.) If cream is not to be had, use a dessert spooonful of sweet butter, no more.
The reason why caramels run and fail to harden is because the usual recipes add half a cupful of milk, which is certain to burn or dilute the syrup too much for candying. Cream or butter and flavoring must always be added after the candy is taken off the fire and ceases to bubble, else the richness is partially lost.
Half a cup of chopped hickory nuts or fresh peanuts gives the nut-caramel children prize. The hot syrup, when done, may be divided in three parts, kept liquid in tin cups set in boiling water, and different flavors given.
The peanuts are best unroasted and stirred in while the caramel boils hard, which gives just enough of a cooked flavor. As quickly as possible, pour the caramel into shallow pans, like those for jelly cake, well-oiled with melted butter or fine salad oil, and warm when the syrup is put in. Then set out of doors on ice till just cold enough to mark off in inch squares with a knife or ruler or strip of tin pressed down on the surface, not drawn across, after which the caramel is left to harden.
Recipe by Shirley Dare (1892) and photo by joyosity (2010)