Caramel Filled Apples
Yield:   64-80 caramel filled apple slices
Cook Time:   30-40 minutes (for caramel)
Tips:   Caramel may also be made as a caramel dip to be served with apple slices (see recipe description for details). Any leftover caramel can be stored in the refrigerator, then reheated and reused later. Alternatively, leftover caramel can be formed into a 5/8-inch-thick sheet (using any size heat resistant buttered pan with sides) and cut into squares, producing caramel candy.
Suggestion:   May be served as a dessert or fruit appetizer for parties, holidays and other events.

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 30-40 minutes (or 20-30 minutes if making as caramel dip), stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches firm ball stage* (248° F). (Note: During the last few minutes of cooking, watch caramel mixture closely to ensure it does not begin turning dark in color, as this will result in a tough caramel.) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. While caramel is cooking, prepare apples (recipe follows).

*"Firm Ball Stage" is a term used to refer to a certain
temperature range when cooking sugars and/or syrups. The common temperature range is between 245-250°. To test doneness without a candy thermometer, simply drop a small amount of hot caramel mixture into a bowl of very cold water. Place your fingers in the bowl and gather the syrup, forming it into a ball. Once a ball is formed, lift it from the water. If caramel has reached the "firm ball stage," it will feel firm and pliable, yet still slightly sticky, and will retain its shape when removed from the water, but will quickly lose its shape when it returns to room temperature.

Caramel Filled Apples

Wash apples, then slice in half. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out apple seeds and apple flesh, leaving about 1/2 inch of apple flesh around all edges. Remove top and bottom stems. Place each apple half in the cup of a muffin tin hollowed side up. Using a pastry brush, brush exposed top apple edges with the lemon juice (this will help prevent the apples from turning brown). Pour caramel into each apple half, filling all the way to the top. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool until caramel sets and becomes firm. (Tip: Lightly touching the caramel will help you determine when it is ready.)

When caramel has become firm, remove apples from refrigerator and place face-up on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut each apple half in half, then cut each quarter in half again. If caramel slips out of apple sections, simply place them back in. Serve. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.