I’ve heard people should learn something new every day to keep their brains in shape.

Tuesday, I learned that October is National Caramel Month and Oct. 31 is National Caramel Apple Day.

I love caramels. I don’t eat them as often as I used to because they are so chewy and tend to stick to my teeth. They are good all by themselves but caramels get even better when you melt them to make caramel apples.

The only problem I’ve ever had with eating caramel apples is that I ran out of caramel before I ran out of apple. I remember thinking as a child that there should be some way to get caramel into the flesh of the apple. I never did think of a way.

There was just something about the really sweet taste of caramel mixing with the fresh, juicy crunch of an apple — especially a Red Delicious Apple.

I knew fall was really here when my mother would buy a bag of caramels. That meant she was going to make caramel apples. She didn’t usually keep caramels around because I would eat them — too much temptation.

My part in helping make caramel apples was a small one, but a very important one. I got to peel the wrappers off the caramels — a sticky job.

It was a job that required much licking of my fingers (well, that goo had to go somewhere and I might as well eat it). Of course, I always got caught. “Go wash your hands,” my mother would say. “You know better than that.”

Off I’d go, wash my hands, come back and start the whole process all over again.

Eventually, I got all the wrappers off. I also got to help insert the popsicle sticks in each apple. And I could help rub butter on a cooking sheet for when the apples were done and had to set.

My part in making caramel apples was then over. I had to stand back to watch since the caramels got very hot as they melted. And I couldn’t help dip the apples because I could have gotten burned.

I did stand (rather impatiently) and watch the apples with their lovely sweet dip as they cooled. That seemed to take forever. But the wait was worth it when we finally got to eat the marvelous concoctions.

As far as I am concerned, caramel apples have always been around. Imagine my shock when I learned that fact was not true. My mother said they didn’t have caramel apples when she was growing up. If they had apples, my grandmother usually made pies.

I did some research on the Internet and discovered “taffy,” “toffee” or “candy” apples have been around since the early 1900s. According to the foodtimeline (foodtimeline.org), there was a recipe called “Apples on a Stick” from 1919. Here’s the recipe: “Apples on a Stick: Take small apples and stick in each one at the top, a small wooden skewer, such as butchers use to pin roasts. Now cook a batch of Molasses Taffy to 280 degrees F. Then dip the apple in the hot batch so as to cover it completely. Let the surplus syrup drip off, then stand them on a slab until cold.” — Rigby’s Reliable Candy Teacher, W.O. Rigby, 19th edition (USA) 1919? (p. 215)

That same Web site also tells about toffee apples, made in Great Britain before the 20th Century. These were covered with a boiled sugar syrup colored red. I’ve seen lots of that kind of candy apples — some even made with a syrup that included Red Hots. They’re good but I still prefer my apples covered with melted caramel. You could add nuts but somehow I feel that would be “gilding the lily,” to paraphrase William Shakespeare.

Contact Teresa Atkerson at family@mcalesternews.com

This Week's Circulars