This is a variation on the plain vanilla caramels I have been making for years. The best quality ingredients (organic cream, fresh butter, Tahitian vanilla) really do make a difference here. I am obsessed with cardamom and find that it makes these delectable, buttery sweets even more heavenly. Plan to give some of these away or you'll be sorry... —gluttonforlife
Crush cardamom pods with the side of a large, heavy knife.
Combine crushed pods with cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep overnight before straining out pods.
Spray a half-sheet pan with vegetable-oil spray. Set aside in a spot where it will not be moved.
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine cream and sweetened condensed milk; set aside.
In a heavy 6- to 8-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup, 1 cup water, sugar, cardamom and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon, 8 to 12 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
Stop stirring, reduce heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250 degrees (hard-ball stage), 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, cook cream mixture over low heat until it is just warm. Do not boil. When sugar reaches 250 degrees, slowly stir in butter and warmed cream mixture, keeping mixture boiling at all times. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage), 55 to 75 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping pot. Once it cools and firms a bit (about 15 minutes) sprinkle the entire surface with a thin layer of salt, very lightly pressing it in with your fingertips. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
To cut, unmold caramel from pan onto large cutting board. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces, or other shapes. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper.