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A Family Tradition
My great-grandmother Rachel Lundeen (aka GG) and her cousin started making holiday caramels for their friends and family in Bloomington, Illinois during the depression (early 1930’s). The caramel recipe they perfected was particularly addicting and yummy. Their friends and family kept demanding they make more caramels, and it quickly turned into a family Christmas tradition that is still going strong eight decades later.
A big thanks to Andrea, Bas, Abby, Ella, Stacey, SueAnn, Angela, Lily & Rob for helping us wrap all the caramels this year! <3
Some of my favorite childhood memories are wrapping caramels with my great-grandmother Rachel (she lived to be 98, passing away in 1999) and the rest of our extended family around my grandparents dining room table. I was in charge of cutting wax paper, but I also ate a lot of caramels. “Wrap one, eat one”, my grandpa used to say.
Four years ago Jonathan and I got brave and decided to try out hand at candy making. We bought a lot of commercial kitchen gear. We bought huge pots, 3′ long stirring spoons, oven mitts that go up to our shoulders, high tech laboratory thermometers, a dozen extra deep cookie sheets, etc. And then we got busy making test batches. There was a bit of a learning curve. We had some failures. Some of the early batches were too soft and stuck to the waxed paper. Some were too hard or just didn’t taste right. Eventually we started getting better at it. We now keep a detailed caramel log of every batch we make, so we can keep improving the recipe. This year we turned out 1600+ candies to share with friends and family.
We stick to the original family recipe for the most part, but we now sprinkle the plain caramels with sea salt (#seasaltisthenewplain). We also make small batches of specialty caramels each year. The flavored caramels for 2015 are: pecans, and chocolate/hazelnut. Based of feedback we may make more of one flavor the next year.
And to answer the million dollar question… No, I can’t give you the recipe. It’s top secret; I’ve been sworn to secrecy by my dad and grandpa Ed (Rachel’s son). We have relatives in different parts of the country who make the caramels each year so there is a little bit of a family competition to see who makes them and how they come out.
Enjoying your caramels? Instagram us a photo! Hashtag your photos #lundeencaramelsofcalifornia and they will automatically show up in the grid below!
Happy Holidays from Echo Park!