The memory has faded some, but the feeling of pure joy is as strong as ever—dad coming home and pulling out from behind his back, to the raucous squeals of us kids, boxes of Cracker Jack, caramel corn that rattled when you shook the box. (Remember those commercials?)
We had to have our own box, couldn’t possibly share, because each box had a surprise gift and we each had to have our own gift. (Is that brilliant marketing or what?) No wonder I love caramel corn.
Caramel corn is quite easy to make, just don't attempt to make it (or any candy) on a humid day. Be careful as the caramel sauce is quite hot; as a safety precaution do not have children running underfoot while making this recipe.
- 4-5 quarts popped popcorn (a double batch of this popcorn recipe, unsalted, unbuttered)
- 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp molasses
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups salted peanuts (optional)
1 Heat oven to 225°F. Place popcorn in large roasting pan; set aside.
2 Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses and salt in a thick-bottomed, 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 250°F or small amount of mixture dropped in ice water forms a hard ball (about 12 to 14 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. The caramel will foam up a little and turn a lighter color when you add the baking soda.
3 Carefully pour hot mixture over the popcorn in a large roasting pan. (If you would like peanuts with your popcorn, sprinkle the salted peanuts over the caramel sauce at this point.) Using a wooden spoon, stir until all popcorn is coated. (Be careful not to let the caramel touch you; it's very hot.) Place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir to more evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel sauce. Return to oven. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately spread caramel corn out onto waxed paper. Let cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in tightly covered container.