I have a question about the recipe "Salted Pumpkin Caramels" from cheese1227. Why didn't my caramels set?! I thought I did everything according to the recipe! Am I not cooking them long enough?
Could your thermometer be off? Maybe try calibrating it if you haven't recently.
If you are using a mercury-filled candy thermometer, it can't be calibrated the way you would a bi-metalic stemmed thermometer. What you can do is immerse it in boiling water, which if you live at or near sea level, boils at of course 212º F (every 500' increase in elevation means a 1º decrease in the temperature at which water boils, so know your elevation and do the math). See where your thermometer registers and adjust your cooking time and temp accordingly, much like taking a reading of you oven with an oven thermometer. If you're using an average $10 bi-metalic stemmed thermometer, which you can calibrate, it isn't going to do you a lot of good, as its upper register is around 160º, well below caramel range. Bi-metalic stemmed thermometers that register up to 300º to 500º are available, but for a price: $100 to $300. Clearly, boiling some water and testing your mercury-filled thermometer cuts to the chase much more affordably.
Caramel which doesn't set has generally been undercooked. In other words, not enough water has been driven off. Testing your thermometer will help you in that regard, but watching it for color and smelling its aroma will do achieve the same end. Once it takes on a deep amber color and begins to give off a deeply cooked scent, you're there. It takes vigilance. Don't step away to check email. If it smells scorched, it is. If it bursts into flames, call 911.
Wow I just learned a valuable lesson. Thanks Cynthia. I had a go at making caramel once and only once. It was a disaster. I might have another go now.
I went through a bunch before I settled on this one: http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Classic-Deep-Fry-Analog-Thermometer/dp/B00004XSC9
Rest of answer disappeared, hmmm... it said:
Taylor thermometers are my favorites as well. This is a dependable one: