Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn
Recipe type: Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 quarts
Whether you think of caramel corn as a Halloween treat, an inexpensive holiday gift or a delicious snack, this recipe is easier to prepare than recipes that have you cook the syrup to a higher temperature before covering the popped corn. The oven heat finishes cooking the candy, while stirring the warm corn helps distribute the syrup evenly. Fill decorated holiday cellophane bags with cooled caramel corn and tie with ribbons or raffia to make great trick or treat favors or stocking stuffers for family, friends and coworkers. Fill a large tin with caramel popcorn to make a substantial holiday present that is fresher and more personal than mail order popcorn.
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1/2 pound (1 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 7 to 8 quarts popcorn (see Note)
  • 1 cup of salted peanuts (optional)
  1. One (1) ounce or 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of unpopped popcorn will make approximately a quart of popped corn; therefore you will need to pop about 1 cup popcorn kernels. I prefer the electric poppers that have a stirrer in the bottom which make up to 6 quarts at a time because I find that air-popped corn sometimes has a scorched taste. Depending on your popper, you might need to pop the corn in two batches. Of course if you don’t have a special appliance, you can pop corn in a large pot. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil per half cup of kernels and shake the pot as you hear the kernels popping to avoid burning the corn. When the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popped corn to your baking pan.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a large, non-stick roasting pan or lightly oil a large baking pan or roasting pan. If you have a silicone liner such as Silpat, you can also line your pan with that. Check the capacity of your pan before you find yourself with a lot of popcorn and a pot of hot syrup. If one pan is not large enough, plan to split the ingredients between two pans. Pop enough corn kernels to get 7 to 8 quarts of popped corn (about one cup). Place the popped corn (and the peanuts if you are using them) into your baking pan. You can leave the popped corn in the oven in your baking pan while you make the second batch and prepare the syrup. Boil sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to the soft ball stage, 234° to 238° on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Add the baking soda (and vanilla if you are using it) and stir well. Be careful, as the hot sugar syrup will foam up when you add the soda. Pour the syrup over the popcorn and stir. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. If your oven doesn’t go that low, check the popcorn and stir more frequently. The caramel corn should be golden in color and feel less sticky when it is done. Slightly underdone is better than overdone. Remove from the oven and cool. When it is cool, break into pieces if necessary and store in airtight containers.

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