October 13, 2010 by Flora Dawn
Caramel Corn. It definitely has holiday treat written all over it. I have never been a fan of the store-bought varieties like Cracker Jacks…well, maybe as a kid, I thought the toy inside the box was quite a treat, but the Cracker Jacks themselves were not. But homemade caramel corn is something else. It is sweet and crunchy and shiny and extremely unhealthy. And it seems to be a hit with people of all ages.
Over the years I have tried a couple different recipes for caramel corn and have come to a few conclusions. If you are new to candy making, do yourself a favor and forget about all the recipes that require a candy thermometer. Not that using one is difficult, but there are much easier versions. My favorite recipe starts on the stove top and is finished in the oven. Quite a few recipes skip the oven baking, but I really think this method produces the best texture and shine.
I originally got this recipe from my sister, who I believe found it in an old community/church style cookbook. However, over the years I have noticed this same recipe, often with the addition of vanilla, in other publications, so I am not sure of its origin. Honestly, I think it is a pretty standard, old-fashioned caramel corn recipe. And it always turns out great!
Making Caramel Corn is a fun rainy-day activity for the whole family, perfect for this time of year. But it does require quite a bit of adult involvement/supervision as hot caramel really burns and it does make a bit of a mess. But if you soak everything in hot water and soap it isn’t such a chore. I also find that if you have a really large bowl to mix it up in, it helps (also spray it with nonstick cooking spray beforehand for the easiest cleanup). Halving the recipe might be the best idea for the first time, it makes the batch easier to manage.
Although I think this recipe is really fun to make with the kids for Halloween, my teenage daughter has always loved making it and packaging it up in decorative jars to give away as Christmas gifts. This recipe does make a large batch, so it is perfect for sharing.
I often see this recipe with the addition of 2 tsp vanilla, which would also be yummy. This makes a large batch, which I often half.
- 6 quarts(24 cups) popped popcorn
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 200 and grease two rimmed baking sheets or 9×13 pans (I think glass 9×13 pans are the easiest to clean afterward).
- In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar and bring to a full boil that can not be stirred down. Stirring constantly, boil for 5 minutes, set the timer!
- Remove from heat and stir in the soda, the caramel will bubble some and change appearance. Carefully pour over popcorn (I find this works best if I do this is two smaller batches or have another person help me) and mix to coat evenly.
- Spread popcorn onto prepared sheets/pans and bake for 1 hour, shaking or stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and allow to cool; it hardens as it cools and you’ll be able to break it up.