For a few years, my immediate family was spread out across the country.  My parents were in Houston, my sister in Oregon, and myself in Columbia, Missouri.

Then, simultaneously, in search of job opportunities, a college degree, and graduate school, my sister, niece, husband, and I all packed up our lives and headed south to Houston.  My parents went from having an empty nest to a house full of family (we all crashed at my parent’s house while finding jobs, housing, figuring out what to do with our lives etc.).

Luckily, Brian quickly found a job, but the job market was tougher for me.  Even though I was desperate for a job, I will always remember this “transition” time fondly.  I got to spend my days cooking for my family, falling in love with my (then) eight-month-old niece, and getting to know my sister all over again.

After almost six-years of living in separate states, personal trials, and growing up, I no longer really knew my sister.  Before moving back home, I honestly never really thought we would live close to each other again or have much more of a relationship other than the obligatory family stuff.  Sad huh?  I guess that is just how it was.

Whether you like it or not, if you are stuck in a house with someone all day with no car to go anywhere with (Brian and I only had one car at the time) you will get to know them.  You are reminded of their habits, what music they like, what food they eat, and generally what matters to them.

To get out of the house, we started taking morning walks.  While my niece either passed out or amused herself with the outdoors, my sister and I little-by-little reintroduced ourselves to each other.  For the first time, we got to honestly revisit things from our past, catch up on experiences we had both had in our separate lives, and hope and dream about the future.  It was a blessing to have this time.

Usually, these walks took us around the neighborhood, but sometimes we ended up at one of my favorite coffee shops, Antidote.  Here our conversations would continue and we discovered the goodness of cajeta.

Cajeta is a Mexican caramel made from goat’s milk.  Unlike traditional caramel of sugar and water boiled  until caramelized and finished with cream, cajeta is made by slowly reducing goat’s milk, sugar, and vanilla a until a sticky carmel results.  The intense, grassy, notes of the goats milk and mellow vanilla make cajeta a unique treat.  I had never heard of it until I randomly tried the cajeta latte at Antidote, where they add a healthy dose of this earthy caramel to a traditional latte.  It was like the heavens opened up and all was right in the world.  To this day, the barista still knows to whip up a cajeta latte anytime my sister or I visit and despite being one of my favorite treats now, cajeta will always remind me of my sister and our quite days together.

In the two years since we all moved home, we have lived in two houses and an apartment, have had multiple jobs between us, my husband and I have both started and dropped out of graduate schools, we have both completely changed careers, my sister is well on her way to becoming a hot-shot lawyer, and she is now one of my best friends.

A lot has changed, and who knows where our future lies, but I now know I can always depend on my sister and cajeta.

Cajeta

Makes about 1 cup

From My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson

Note:  I love the flavors cajeta adds to coffee.  Just stir it in your morning cup of joe or make yourself a latte.  Don’t have a fancy espresso machine?  Me neither, but you can still make foamy milk with an immersion blender.  Just blend milk with the blender until stiff and foamy, about 1 minute (this works best with cold fat-free milk, but you can use any milk you like).

Cajeta is also great over ice cream or on crepes.  I would argue it would be good on anything.

4 cups goat’s milk

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

Combine the milk, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium, tall, heavy-duty pot.  Scrape the vanilla bean into the pot and add the pod.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Remove from the heat, add the baking soda, and stir carefully as it will bubble and steam up.  When the bubbling has stopped, return it to the heat.

Adjust the heat so the mixture is at a constant simmer, stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once it has turned a golden color, pay more attention and stir more often.  Cook until it is thick and a dark caramel color, about 1 hour.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool before using.  Remove vanilla bean pod.  If you feel the caramel has thickened too much once it’s cooled, simply  stir in a bit of warm water.  Store in refrigerator (you may need to microwave sauce for a few seconds before using if it has become too stiff).

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