For as long as I can remember, my family has made a table full of Christmas goodies each holiday season. It's always been a family event - I have fond memories of being young (4 or 5) and requesting specific frosting colors on cut out cookies so that I could decorate them with sprinkles, red hots, etc.
As we've grown older, and fewer family members are able to make it to the holiday celebrations, the variety of goodies has decreased, down to a few key favorites. These caramels are one of the recipes that continues to be made annually (and often more than one batch per season). Even this year, where my husband & I will be celebrating without our extended family, I couldn't resist whipping up a batch.
1 cup butter
1 pound (2 1/4c) brown sugar (I've used both light & dark, depending on the flavor you want)
dash of salt
1 cup light corn syrup
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter the bottom & sides of a 9x13 inch cake pan, set aside.
Melt butter in a heavy pan. Add brown sugar and salt. Stir until combined. Blend in corn syrup. Gradually add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat until candy reaches firm to hard ball stage. (My thermometer has firm ball as 248F and hard ball as 260F - I like the texture best when at 255F on my thermometer). This will take 12-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into buttered pan. Cool completely, and cut into squares. Wrap as desired. (I use the non-stick foil wrap to carefully twist around the candies, growing up we used the plastic backed floral foil - the colorful variety we'd use looked great!)