What is the Difference Between Caramel and Carmel

It’s easy to get confused with the words Carmel and caramel. The only hanging question is if they are both, in fact, the same?

Carmel is a proper noun. It is used to name places like Mount Carmel (in the Middle East), California, and people such as Carmel. Carmel can also be tracked to ancient religious texts as the name of religious orders and places. While its history has no connection with cooking, it is sometimes found in cooking-related texts. 

Caramel is a term used in cooking to describe one of two things:

1. A butter, corn syrup, cream, and sugar mixture that creates chewy and firm candy
2. A flavoring or coloring agent

It is a misspelling when you encounter the word ‘carmel’ in a recipe or other related text. 

Caramel: Pronunciation
Of all the English-speaking countries around the world, the USA is the primary place where the spelling of caramel and Carmel often causes confusion. Dialect changes tracked across the US show that as you move from the East to the West, the pronunciation of caramel is shortened by one syllable.

As the number of English speakers who dropped the one-syllable increased, Carmel became the standard pronunciation. People then started spelling the word as it is pronounced, turning caramel into Carmel. Despite this, there’s still no agreement on the proper pronunciation.

The correct pronunciation of caramel is as much debated as the pronunciation of potato and tomato. In some areas, the first syllable is pronounced as car, while others pronounce it as care. Those who include a second syllable either use an “ah” or “uh” sound. The final syllable’s pronunciation depends on whether the speaker views the words as a two- or three-syllable word. The pronunciation can vary from el, ul, uhl, or ehl. 

It is recommended that you go with the dominant pronunciation in your local area since there’s no consensus. 

Caramel: What is It?
Like its pronunciation, the history of caramel’s origin is also not agreed upon. While some believe it originated as an American candy, others claim that caramel existed in the Middle East as a hardened mixture from as early as 1000 CE. 

Although there’s disagreement on its origin, everyone agrees that the first commercial caramel candy was sold in the late 1800s. In fact, Hershey’s began with caramel, not chocolate. Milton Hershey initially owned a candy company called the Lancaster Caramel Company. He sold it to the American Caramel Company for $1 million – $33 million (today’s value) in 1900. Hershey’s chocolate obsession began while he was working on a coating for his caramel candies.

Caramel: How is it Made?
While people generally think that caramel is soft, light-brown candy with a chewiness, it, in reality, comes in various colors, flavors, and textures. These three components are dependent on how the sugar base is caramelized. 

Sugar Base
The sugar base of caramel can be caramelized by two methods. 

Dry: In the dry method, sugar is melted until it liquifies. The mixture is then boiled after milk and fats are added. The dry process produces a dark, stronger caramel-tasting solidified mixture. 

Wet: In the wet method, sugar and water are combined and brought to a boil. Next, milk and fats are added. The wet process produces a lighter-colored solidified base that is less chewy. 

When you create caramelized sugar in a microwave, it’s only suitable for home use. 

The caramelization process can produce light, glossy caramel sheets that are hard or dark, stickier textures that are also hardened.

Caramel flavors are highly adjustable, and you can add anything from chocolate to maple to vanilla. 

The caramel texture depends on the temperature at which the sugar is caramelized and the length of the cooking process. Caramels can either be soft or hard. Soft textured caramels have a chewy texture and generally contain corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in their recipe. Hard textured caramels are typically used in sauces or as toppings and are only slightly softer than hard candy. 

Carmel: Where is it Used?
Carmel is used for two popular sites. The first is Mt. Carmel and the second Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The first record of the use of Carmel appears in ancient writings like the Bible and documents from Egypt during the 16th century BCE. Its use in Mt. Carmel is the first in the world since the word is classified as sacred. The Carmel Mountain Range is located in Israel within a nature reserve. Other uses of the word are in holy order, monastery names, and religious schools. 

A Spanish Mission built Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1797 in California on the Monterey Peninsula. The mission aimed to assist Native Americans in the area as the Spanish occupation of California began. Religious services are held in the Carmel Mission, and tourists enjoy visiting Carmel city because of it. The building is one of the authentically reinstated Spanish Missions. 

While the site is named Carmel Mission, you should not associate it with the Roman Catholic Church’s Carmelite order. 

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