Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan, add the first five ingredients. Cook and stir over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove from the heat. Cook, without stirring until mixture reaches 110 degrees.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Beat until light colored and stiff enough to knead about 2 minutes. Lightly grease hands; knead mixture in bowl for 2 minutes or until smooth. Roll into 1 inch balls; cover and freeze for 20 minutes.
Melt chips and shortening, dip thee balls; shaking off excess. Roll in nuts if desired. Place on waxed paper lined baking sheets to harden.
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