Trying to discover delicious snacks and meal for strangely picky kids (I have nothing against picky, just be consistent as to your picky ;)), sent me digging through some cookbooks that I hadn’t touched in years. A surprising find was a family cookbook that was put together in 1998, when my Dad’s family had a reunion. At first glance, a lot of the recipes seem okay, or nothing special. However most of my after chore snacks and some of the dinners for the kids have come from this treasure. This recipe was submitted by my own mother, which shocked me, as I never remember her making us caramel corn. Isn’t there a rule against submitting amazing recipes if you never make them for your own kids? On the other hand, her chili cheddar casserole should have been submitted without her ever feeding it to us kids (at least so I thought 15-20 years ago).
My favorite part is when the caramel is cooking, the smell of caramel makes me drool–the delightful buttery sugary goodness penetrated even my spring allergy congested nose. That takes skill.
The most difficult part was trying to figure out how much popcorn to pop in order to get 3 quarts (or 12 cups) or popcorn. Half a cup of blue kernels only gave me 10 cups, so I tossed in mebbe quarter cup of yellow kernels (just because) to add more. So I don’t actually know how much I made, probably over 3 quarts, so a greater popcorn to caramel ratio than the recipe calls for.
A little bit about popcorn though, since I mention blue and yellow kernels. Right now my house is packed with popcorn, we have white, red, yellow, and blue kernels. White and red make smaller white tender pop corn, the blue is larger but still a bright white, and yellow is slightly yellow (compared to the other popcorns) and large as well. Why the diversity? Aside from my own collection carrying over from when popcorn was the easiest snack for me to make, my daughter’s science project is seeing which kind pops the most kernels. And let me tell you, blue popcorn pops 85-95% of the kernels, where just the normal store brand yellow only popped about 50-60% of the kernels. I will note this is popping 100 kernels for 2 minutes with an air popper. Honestly though, I like keeping them all on hand and doing a mixture of them all, it adds slight flavor differences that rounds out my popcorn experience.
I should probably warn you. I just lied about the most difficult part of the recipe. The most difficult part is letting it “cool in pan completely” while caramel yumminess smells invade your nose. Now, give me a moment while I finish munching on the still warm caramel corn. This is healthy right? Popcorn is a whole grain after all. . .
Assuming you keep a decent pantry, this recipe is fairly simply ingredients wise: brown sugar, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla. Best of all in my book it uses corn syrup! I know, I know, who gets excited about corn syrup recipes? someone who has 3 bottles of corn syrup and only 1 brownie recipe that uses it, but also uses expensive dark chocolate as well. My point being, at least for me, I always seem to buy corn syrup for the 2-4 tablespoon uses and then am left with a large amount and no way to use it. in sum, yaaay recipe that uses corn syrup. For those who don’t have con syrup, I would say the recipe isn’t worth the vicious cycle of corn syrup. . . but it tastes so delicious.
You start by melting butter in a pot, then add the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. In my brilliancy, I plopped my brown sugar and it splattered my butter all over the stove top. At least it wasn’t as large a mess as the time I accidentally “poofed” 2 cups of flour across my just swept kitchen floor. I love the barefoot footprints from where the flour didn’t reach because my feet were in the way. Make sure you stir it constantly while you bring it to a boil. This means, have your popcorn already done popping before you begin. And unless you like unpopped corn kernels I suggest weeding those out as well.
I neglected to take pictures because I was caught up in last minute dashing to grab ingredients and prevent popcorn from spilling onto the floor and stopping my dog from going into a fit over a robin in his territory. But after it comes to a boil, let it continue boiling without stirring for 5 minutes. I remembered to start a timer: which was a good thing because I swore after 1 minute that 5 had already past. Once the 5 minutes it up remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
Then take that hot mixture and slowly pour it over the popcorn. I paused a few times in the pouring to stir it: easier than waiting until the end. Then spread it into a large GREASED roasting pan. If you don’t have that, anything that can give you as much surface area as possible. The popcorn won’t escape, I promise, so use a baking sheet if needed, or just aluminum foil if desperate.
You’ll then bake it for half an hour. It smells soooo good.Now I of course forgot after 15 minutes to stir the popcorn, but it still turned out.
After is has cooled completely–NO TOUCHIE! (Well, I won’t blame you if you do touch, because it is phenomenal warm!), use a spatula to pry it up. I had a moment of fear when I heard the popcorn creaking that I was going to crumble/crush the popcorn, but I was fine. Then just break it apart and store it in an air tight container (aka zip lock baggie), or eat a third of it before the kids get home, no one will be the wiser.
Baked Caramel Corn
makes about 2.5 quarts
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3 quarts popped corn
- Preheat oven 300 degrees
- In 1 1/2 quart pan, melt butter.
- Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
- Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Boil over medium heat without stirring for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
- In a large bowl, gradually pour hot caramel syrup over popped corn, mixing well.
- Spread coated popped corn into a buttered roasting pan (17X12X2).
- Bake uncovered 300F for 30 minutes, stirring popcorn after 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool completely in pan.
- Loosen popcorn with a spatula and break in to pieces. Store in a tightly covered container.