We make Caramel Corn during the holidays. I suppose we could make it any time but then we’d be much larger people. It’s good to limit things this way I think.
This recipe makes quite a lot of Caramel Corn, but it’s surprising how quickly 3 batches will disappear around here.
This is an amalgamation of several recipes out there and variations have been called “Never Fail Caramel Corn” among other things. I’m here to tell you that this is pretty easy Caramel Corn, but it’s not ‘Never Fail’. I’ll try point out the possible failure points. You might as well learn from my mistakes.
Despite my warning notes below, making caramel corn is worth the effort. Homemade caramel corn is so much better than the stuff you get in bags or packets for exorbitant prices at stores. It’s a fun family effort. And it’s a great holiday gift packed up in nice tins or bags.
Here’s what you need:
6 quarts of freshly popped popcorn.
Warning #1: Pop this from popcorn that is fresh. If you have a bag or bottle of popcorn in the pantry that has been in there for more than a year or so, it’s probably not fresh and you’ll end up popping stuff less lofty than ideal, plus you’ll end up with hard unpopped kernels. These are a bummer to bite into.
Also, don’t use pre bagged microwave popcorn. It has other stuff in it that makes it taste salty and buttery and fun to eat while watching movies in front of the TV. It’ll make far too salty caramel corn.
The way I do it now is using an old fashioned popcorn maker on the stove. I used to use a hot air popper. That works too. A 5-6 qt pot with a lid on the stove works if you shake it around. Go here for instructions if you don’t know how. (I use at lot less oil than she does,but I like her instructions otherwise).
Two 1/2 cup measures of unpopped corn pops into about the right amount for one recipe.
I get the boy to help pop the corn while I make the caramel. Put all of the popped corn in a large bowl.
For the caramel part, put in a largish (see Warning #2) heavy saucepan:
1 Cup Butter – melted
1/2 Cup Corn Syrup
2 Cups Brown Sugar, packed
3 Tablespoons Molasses
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Bring all of the above to a boil, stirring constantly. When it comes to a boil, turn heat to medium, and let the mixture boil without stirring for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
The caramel will look like this for five minutes.
Turn off the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon each baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will rise and foam.
Warning #2: Make sure you use a saucepan larger than the volume of the initial volume of ingredients. Overflowing caramel on the stove is no fun to clean up. And dangerously hot to boot.
Pour the mixture while hot over the popped corn and mix gently. I use a silicone spatula and fold the mixture to coat the corn.
Warning #3: Boiling hot caramel is super hot. Do not touch this at this time.
The corn may not be totally coated perfectly. That’s ok. You’ll get a chance to coat it better.
Warning #4: If you get too aggressive mixing the corn and caramel, it will cool and you’ll get frustrated and break the nice kernels of corn you so carefully popped.
Spread the coated corn onto two large rimmed half sheet pans lined with Silpats or parchment. Place the sheets into the preheated oven on two racks for 40 minutes. Take them out and gently flip and stir the corn every 10 minutes (here’s where the popcorn gets more evenly coated as the oven heat softens the caramel) and switch the upper sheet to the lower rack and vice versa.
Take the sheet pans out and give the corn a final stir around if you don’t want the caramel corn to clump together too much. Or you can let it be clumpy.
Add peanuts for a Cracker Jack kind of caramel corn, or for that matter, any other kind of nuts.
I like to store this and give it away in tins. Keep away from moisture! Enjoy!