Salted Vanilla Bean Creamy Caramel
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine. Raise heat to medium and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat a little if the caramel seems to be scorching against the side of the pan.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla bean paste and salt. Spoon into hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath according to standard canning procedures, or simply cool and store in the fridge to be eaten within a few months. (See my previous post on canning.)
Note: This is not like the caramel sauce (such as ice cream toppings) you buy, which can be heated to a thin liquid. It is very thick, even when hot, and will harden if spooned onto something cold, like ice cream, so it would be best served over warm, or room-temperature food. Warm it carefully, microwaving in 10-second increments and stirring frequently, as it gets hot very quickly. It would also be delicious as a dip for apples or whisked into the custard of a bread pudding. After it's chilled, it is firm enough to roll into balls and be dipped in chocolate for homemade chocolate-covered caramels.
For a gift, tie with a pretty ribbon and label. I also included a recipe for Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Bread Pudding, using this caramel in the custard.
Yields 3 half-pint jars, plus a little extra (about 3 1/4 cups).