I learned how to make homemade caramel from my mom, who was taught by her mom. I really like this recipe because it's "the good caramel!" It doesn't take too long, because I simplify the recipe. My mom says I should really cook it slower, but I can't taste a difference. So faster it is. I use this recipe to make caramels, as well as turtles. The original recipe comes from Candymaking by Pauline Atkinson. As my mother always says, make sure to test your thermometer before making candy!
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a 4-cup bowl, combine cream and milk. In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine 1/3 of the cream-milk mixture, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally until mixture turns a light tan color.
Clip on candy thermometer. Increase heat a little; medium to medium high. Stirring continuously and without stopping the boiling action, slowly pour in cream-milk mixture little by little. Pour in a small amount, then while stirring let it get boiling a little harder, then pour in a little more. Continue stirring and adding cream-milk mixture until you've added all of it.
Don't worry too much about how much you're adding. The important thing is to not let it stop boiling. If it starts to look likes it going to stop boiling, turn up the heat a little for just a minute, then turn it back down. My grandma says that if it curdles add 1/16 teaspoon baking soda and stir. (I've never had that happen to me.)
Boil caramel until it reaches a firm ball stage. (This varies - depending on your altitude.) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Without scraping, pour caramel into a buttered 9 x 13 inch glass casserole dish. Cool completely.
If making turtles, this recipe makes about the same amount of turtles, 93 - 98.