salted caramel sauce for dummies. aka the plain english version

I have done a lot of work for you these last few days. 
A couple of weeks ago I made an AMAZING salted caramel sauce that was so good I wanted to eat it by the spoonful...I mean, lightly drizzled over ice cream.  It was AMAZING.  I immediately knew I wanted to make jars of it to give as gifts. 
So last week I made another batch.  FAIL.  Horrible, horrible fail. 
I tried again.  Fail again.  I didn't get it...It worked beautifully the first time. 
If you know me, or have been here long, you know I have very little patience for things like this...nor do I particularly care for repetition.  BUT.  The sauce was that good.  I HAD to perfect it.   I researched recipes, bought a thermometer and WORKED. IT. OUT. 
You are welcome. 
The last few times I made it, I was so sure of what I was doing that I had time to take photos.  For you.  Because you must make this.  MUST.  Ready?
You will want some little jars like these to gift it in.  One batch makes 2 1/2 to three of these depending on how full you make them.
You also need:
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 tablespoon of karo (light corn syrup)
1 1/4 cup of heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons of salted butter
1 tsp of salt
A thermometer that goes up to 400 or so.  Vital.  This is how I worked out my kinks.  Turned out my "low heat" was too low and my "medium heat" was not medium. 
Whenever I use karo I always spray down my measuring tool...helps the karo come out easier.  Also, I always grease the threads of the karo lid and mouth...keeps the lid from sticking.
Go to the bathroom before you start.  You will want to stay close by for the whole process.  :)
Mix together the sugar, water and karo.  It will look like this.
Now here is where my version becomes different.  In my research I learned that I let it heat up TOO SLOWLY, causing my bad batches to crystallize and become a science project. 
Heat up this mixture on medium low heat.  On my stove top it is on a 3.5 (see above).
Now leave it alone.  Don't stir it at this point.  Give it a few minutes to heat up and let the sugar dissolve.  
While that is happening, get your other ingredients ready...heavy cream...
I add my vanilla to the cream to make it a little easier at pour time...
If you are making lots of batches in a row like I did today (SIX) I pre-cut all my butter into pats.
 Here's what my hot kitchen mess looks like. 
 Here's what your mixture will start to look like.  If you notice that the sugar around the edges is not dissolving, gently take a spoon and go around the edges to push it into the middle.  Slow and gentle. 
When it looks like this it's time to turn up the heat.  Notice that the mixture is clear...the middle is bubbles.  You want the sugar to be nearly dissolved. 
Turn the heat up to a little above medium heat.  On my stove this is a 6.  Every so often gently tilt the pan back and forth to stir it a bit.  (If you are doing multiple batches, this is a good time to overlap the next batch). 
At "6" this is the temperature my mixture would get to...once I saw that the temperature had plateaued, I upped it a to a 6.5.  I kept doing this until the temperature went up to the 325-350 range. 
Here it is at 321...notice the change in color...stay close by for this part...gently tilt back and forth to stir and prevent burning.  
And darker still...
This is about where you want to take it off the heat and sit it on a cool burner.  But don't turn that other burner off ...put it back down to your medium low spot, you will use it again in a moment.    
Now SLOWLY pour your creamer/vanilla mixture in.  SLOWLY.  The pour stream coming out should be smaller than a pencil width.  Pouring it slowly WHILE STIRRING THE WHOLE TIME will prevent it from completely clumping up.  You do not need to warm up the cream or anything like that.  Just pour slowly.  And stir.
It will fizz and bubble and spaz out on you. It's ok. :)
 Pour slowly while stirring.  Just remember that. :)
 Eventually you will have this (after a minute or so of stirring).
Add your butter and salt in now...keep stirring...
Return to the medium low heat.  Keep stirring until the mixture is completely smooth and the butter has melted. 
Usually...about the time the butter has melted, the sauce will start to simmer.  Remove from the heat and pour into jars.
I used free printable labels from Over the Moon to dress them up just a little.  Doug is taking them to work so I couldn't go crazy with cute. :)
This is what we keep our home stash in. :) We can pop the top off and microwave for a few seconds to make it nice and pourable.

My research tells me that this is good unrefrigerated for 3 months and refrigerated for six.

Now go make some.  And put it on apples.  That way it's healthy. 

Leave any questions in the comments and I will answer them there. :)
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