We’re not huge on Valentine’s Day here at the Heavy Table — Febgiving is our mid-winter holiday — but when an offer arrives from a Minnesota candy company to sample its hand-made caramels, it’s hard to turn down. Ignoring the sugar-fueled V-Day hype, we evaluated Sweet Jules Caramels based on the candy’s pure merits and found the St. Joseph-made treats stand up to other locally made caramels we’ve tried.
Crafted since 2009 by sisters Jule Vranian and Hope Klocker, who grew up in a restaurant-industry family, the caramels have a depth of flavor and careful balance of sweet and sophistication that’s lacking in commercially made candy. Eight flavors, ranging from Classic Vanilla Bean to the more gimmicky Beer & Pretzel, are available year-round, with seasonal varieties offered occasionally. Luckily, the sisters have the mastery to make even those unusual flavors work. The Beer & Pretzel, made with Scotch Ale from Town Hall Brewery, first hits the palate with burst of butteriness, then settles down into a dusky ale flavor that is enhanced by the pretzel’s salty crunch. It’s rich enough that one hand-cut rectangle satisfies, but not so sweet that you’ll only be craving savory flavors for the rest of the day.
Equally successful are the varieties that use dark Swiss chocolate to anchor the candy. The Dark Chocolate & Salted Pecan treat (above) features the same flavors as a chocolate turtle candy but in a more restrained, petite package with a higher-quality chocolate. Jules of Paris, in which the chocolate is blended into the caramel base and then topped with sea salt, blasts the tongue with cocoa upon first bite, with the saltiness sneaking up upon swallow. If any flavors could use tweaking, it would be the fruit-infused caramels. While the citrus burst of the Sicilian Orange candy comes through right away, the fruit notes of the Bananas Foster version are so subtle that they disappear.
Sweet Jules Caramels are worth the calories any time of year, so pay no attention to the calendar if you place an order between today and the 14th. Or tell yourself they’re for a Febgiving hostess gift.
Sweet Jules Caramels, 31323 115th Ave, St. Joseph, MN 56374; 320.282.8379