Sticky Situations: The Health & History of Caramel Apples (And How to Make Your Own At Home!)
You know that time of year: The weather gets colder, the sweaters get warmer and the comfort foods get comfier than ever.
But is there anything that says fall – or comfort food, for that matter – quite like a caramel apple? (Well, maybe a pumpkin spice caramel apple… but that’s a fruit-filled discussion for another time!)
Just A Spoonful of Sugar
Let’s face it, caramel apples aren’t exactly showing up on anyone’s diet plan.
But there’s one way to have your caramel apple, and eat it, too, with slightly less guilt: You can make your own version of the confection – like with our Organic Apple & Goat Milk Caramel Kit!
The box includes six small granny apples, coming directly from a small farm in Washington State, along with a packet of caramel sauce made especially by a boutique operation in Vermont.
You can be assured of the apple’s organic quality thanks to the careful growers at Olympic Fruit Co. Based in Moxee, Washington, the family-run operation has been in the apple growing business since the 1960s, forming a grower-centric operation with four other legacy farms in the area to assure that it isn’t just the most popular – but the best – produce that makes it to the market.
And the goat’s milk caramel has been cooked up by experts at Fat Toad Farm since 2007. Still hand-stirred by members of the family business, the dip is a decadent product of the farm’s 75 goats, who live happily in Brookfield, Vermont, and form the backbone of the hyperlocal operation.
But aside from the dedication to care and quality in their background, the caramel apples you can make from the kit boast their own unique health benefits, by virtue of their very components.
An Apple A Day…
Small-batch caramel, like that made by Fat Toad, is typically made with much greater care and quality control than the store-bought kinds, as producers have a hand in nearly every step of the process. And goat’s milk caramel is typically made with only a few simple ingredients: Milk; sugar; corn starch; and salt.
Goat’s milk – and especially organic goat’s milk – is considered one of the earliest known superfoods, thanks to its high concentration of prebiotics, which aid in everything from metabolism to digestion, and nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, iodine and potassium.
To be considered organic, goat’s milk must also pass a number of other tests, including coming from an animal not fed or administered any type of genetically modified substances, including hormones and antibiotics.
The same can be said for apple production, with organic apples retaining far more of their healthful benefits than the more commercialized crops. And those benefits are anything but few and far between.
One medium apple alone is a great source for fiber, vitamins C and K and potassium. But apples are also rich in the mineral manganese, which works wonders for our brains, as well as copper and vitamins A, E, B1, B2 and B6. Whew!
Not to mention apples are big proponents of polyphenols, plant-based compounds related to everything from boosted brain to digestive health. And the fruits also deliver plenty of soluble fiber, which has been connected to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Designated “organic,” the fruits are also required to be grown in soil designated free of harmful substances for at least three years prior to harvest. The officially designated term rules out a number of usual unhealthy suspects, including most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
When you put it all together with the organic goat’s milk small-batch caramel in your Organic Apple & Goat Milk Caramel Kit, you can rest assured that your homemade caramel apple is one of the least frightening Halloween treats around!
But it wasn’t always the scary holiday associated with the sweet treat.
In fact, caramel apples as they’re known in the United States started as a Christmas affair.
But their history predates even the oldest Christmas traditions in the country.
Candy apples – or, technically, candied bing tanghulu, a type of Chinese berry similar to a crabapple – were a rumored delicacy all the way back in Song dynasty China, dating back to 960 AD. It’s possible the treats were an early collaboration between China and India, where the Chinese emperor Tai-Hung sent a group of scholars to learn the art of sugar refining in the seventh century.
Sugar and honey were often used as food preservatives in the pre-refrigerator days, though it wasn’t long before someone realized that adding the sweet stuff to nature’s candy only made everything better. And as sugar production grew in popularity, the tradition of candied fruits followed close behind, eventually spreading Westward and appearing in the kingly European feasts of the Middle Ages.
It took nearly another millennia for the treat to catch on in the United States, when a Newark, New Jersey candy maker named William Kolb got the idea to appeal to window shoppers with a festive display in 1908.
Kolb chose to coat his apples in melted down red cinnamon candy, offering a fiery pop of flavor and an equally bright color to catch the eye. And it wasn’t long before the treat became a must-have along the Jersey Shore and, eventually, the country, where it was widely considered a Christmas season confection.
But it took all the way until 1958 for the caramel apple to officially hit the scene, after the good people at Kraft Foods had the thought to replace a hard sugar shell with a (slightly) softer, and decidedly delicious caramel coating.
The widespread adaptation also helped expand the treat’s popularity in time, pushing caramel apple production earlier into the fall and allowing producers to pick apples at the peak of their season.
The result was an even sweeter bite that only led to even more demand. And today, it’s hardly Halloween without the familiar crunch of a caramel coating.
So we wouldn’t say boo to the chance of making our own holiday treats!