I forget who first called us “Laverne and Shirley” from the popular 1970s comedy sitcom. We updated our image along the way of our 20-plus-year Navy public affairs careers but the original nicknames stuck — a tribute to some of the adventures we had together.

I forget who first called us “Laverne and Shirley” from the popular 1970s comedy sitcom. We updated our image along the way of our 20-plus-year Navy public affairs careers but the original nicknames stuck — a tribute to some of the adventures we had together.
This adventure was less tricky and more delicious. I spent an afternoon in St. Louis helping Margaret wrap wax paper around a batch of delicious homemade caramels.
It was good therapy for my broken right wrist, and I don’t think anyone will notice that my wax paper twists are not quite as even as hers. The ones I really botched I ate.
Everyone else who has also tried these have said they are wonderful. No doubt the level of freshness and lack of preservatives contributes to their taste.
These are easy to make and even better to share, especially if you have extra hands over the holidays to help with the wax paper wrapping.

Margaret’s World Famous Caramels

Ingredients:
Butter to grease foil
1 cup unsalted butter
2 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup light color corn syrup
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon sea salt
100 squares of 4-inch-by-6-inch wax wrapping papers
Good quality candy thermometer (avoid the cheap glass ones)

To make:
Butter foil and line a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Extend foil over edges; set aside.
Place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, condensed milk and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on full power about four to five minutes; stir after every minute until butter melts.
Microwave for nine to 16 minutes until candy thermometer inserted in center of mix registers 245; this is the “firm ball stage.”
Start checking at eight minutes for a 1,000 watt micro; then check every minute after.
To get an accurate reading, gently swirl the thermometer thru mix to stir it slightly, then hold thermometer in center of mix for reading.
Shortly before reaching 245 or "firm ball stage," dribble a small spoonful of the hot mix into a bowl of cold water. Using your fingers, form the mix into a ball. Take out of water and put ball on counter. Ball should hold its shape but will flatten quickly. If mix is too soft, microwave one minute more, then re-test using a clean spoon and fresh water.
Don’t overcook or the caramels will be very hard.
When mix reaches the "firm ball stage," stir in vanilla and pour into the buttered foiled dish. You can miss this step or make a second version by sprinkling half of the top with sea salt.
Refrigerate two to three hours or until firm. To slice, use foil to lift caramel out of dish; cut into 100 pieces with a sharp buttered knife. (I use a French knife.)
Wrap caramels in squares of waxed paper starting at an angle and twisting paper edges to finish. If you did a batch with sea salt, with a marker, write an S on the outside of the wrapped piece to identify it.
Store at room temp for up to two weeks.
Don’t worry; they won’t last that long. Merry Christmas!

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener and beekeeper. Copyright 2015 all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com.