I spent a recent Sunday afternoon testing different caramel candy recipes that I had found on the internet and in cookbooks. While doing so, I was sitting here at the kitchen island, staring at a very large bottle of Saporoso balsamic from Modena, Italy, that I had purchased not too long ago.
Every recipe at which I looked had some amount of vanilla extract. Nowadays even Karo syrup contains “real” vanilla. Why in the name of candymaking did they go and do that? Even the generics have “real” vanilla added. What if one doesn’t want vanilla in the finished product?
Anyway, I thought to myself since the Karo already has vanilla, I’ll switch out the remaining amount of liquid for the balsamic at which I was staring. I did just that and -wow- what a great depth of flavor it added to the finished product! It also cut the tooth-achingly sweetness just a bit.
Other recipes called for one can of condensed milk. I cooked the contents of one can in a pan of boiling water for 3 hours with the results being dulce de leche. I then took 1/2 cup of the cooled dulce de leche and added it to the caramel as soon as it reached a temperature of 248 degrees Fahrenheit. By happy coincidence this stopped the cooking temperature enough to kept the caramel at the “firm ball” stage (candymaking parlance).
The results of my tinkering are published on the PastureLand  website as this month’s featured recipe.