The Chum and Gertie Way

As a kid growing up in central Alberta my grandma always made these delicious caramels at Christmas. They were cut into small squares and wrapped in wax paper. As kids my siblings and I loved to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to “help” wrap caramels. It really was a labour of love. Cutting the caramel with a big butcher knife was Grandpa’s job- any too big or too small or with a weird shape we “had” to eat. Darn. Grandma’s job was to cut the wax papers just the right size and try to keep the rest of us from eating it all. Delicious memories.

As I got older I wanted to know how to make this amazing treat myself. I asked Grandma if she would teach me and we set a night for me to go over. She told me the story of herself, Gertie, and her older sister Helen, when they were away at what was called Normal School- basically teachers’ college. One of their teachers invited them over to her house and taught them this recipe. It became a family favourite and Gertie then taught it to me. There were two remarkable things about how she cooked it perfectly. One was that she knew the mixture was getting close by the sound the bubbles made. And the other was she tested it for doneness using cold water in a tea cup to drizzle the caramel in and then poke with her finger to feel the texture. Only a few of us know the recipe (including some of my cousins) and as far as I know it is a family secret. The caramels were only made at Christmas time which helped to make them even more special.

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