The memory has faded some, but the feeling of pure joy is as strong as ever—my father 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), any un-popped kernels removed
- 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups salted peanuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 225°F:
Place already popped popcorn in large roasting pan; set aside.
Bring sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, salt to a boil:
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.
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.)
Cook in oven:
Place in the 225°F 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 more.
Remove from oven. Immediately spread caramel corn out onto parchment paper or a Silicone mat:
Let cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in tightly covered container.