I typically pride myself on avoiding the impulse-buy items near the register at a grocery store, but during a recent trip to Surdyk’s, I became intrigued with the glass jar of wrapped caramels sitting on the countertop. Did I really need to buy sweets when I was already purchasing $20 worth of rich, fattening cheese? No, but once I saw the candies were made in Minnesota, I convinced myself I was boosting the local economy and grabbed two from the jar.
Good move on my part. It turns out the caramels are Knudsen’s Caramels, a Red Wing-based business of more than 20 years run by Peggy Knudsen and her family. Initially an add-on to the line of cheesecakes the Knudsens sold to area restaurants and stores, the caramels now routinely outsell the cakes, with 600-700 lbs. produced daily. One bite of a two-bite-sized caramel demonstrates why: The confection has a luxuriously buttery taste; nutty, toasted aroma; and smooth-but-not-too-sticky texture that puts commercial caramels to shame.
When asked if there’s a secret ingredient that makes her caramels so good, Peggy laughs: “A lot of butter,” which she sources from Minnesota dairies. “I hear from so many people that the caramels remind them of their mother’s or grandmother’s recipe. I’ve tried to keep that flavor.”
The Knudsens are working on a website that is due to go live in a few months, so for now, you’ll have to call to find a retailer or place an order. “We just really enjoy talking to our customers, so that’s why we’ve dragged our feet a bit on a website,” Peggy adds.
Are the caramels worth the phone call? You bet. Just hope you get your hands on them before I do.
Knudsen’s Caramels can be found locally at Surdyk’s, 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, for 50 cents / piece or by calling 651.385.0800.