All this talk (and type) of Christmas brought something to my mind. Caramel corn. I was first introduced to the real stuff (not what comes in a third of those giant popcorn tins) when I met Jamey. His mother made (and still does) real caramel popcorn every Christmas. It wasn't a standard Christmas treat that I was used to but, my oh my, it has become one.
I recently made it for a church get-together and thought I should share the recipe with you. I've stuck to my mother-in-law's ingredients and amounts, but have changed the proportions of popcorn to caramel a bit. If you like yours coated less, use more popped popcorn. If you want it coated even more heavily, decrease the popcorn or increase the caramel. You all are smart. You'll figure it out.
Warning: This is not something you should make if you are trying to watch your butter or sugar intake. If you are, click away mighty fast, my friends, or give a good portion of it away immediately. You do not want this lingering in your house if you have hopes to stay away from it. I am only responsible for my own over-indulging. Not yours. Just so we're clear:-).
Caramel Popcorn (Jamey's mom's recipe, proportions only have been changed)
Keep in mind that this takes a couple hours to make (from start to finish). So, don't start it an hour before you want to take it somewhere:-).
Makes about 2 1/2 gallons of caramel corn.
9 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup peanuts (optional)
3 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter (I use 2 1/2 sticks and it works well)
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Place the popped popcorn and peanuts (if using) in a very large bowl or pot. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will puff up and lighten in color as it boils.
Remove it from the heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over popcorn and peanuts and mix well. If you stopped here, you would have soggy popcorn, so we need to bake it. Turn out the popcorn into large baking pans (with sides) that are coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring/turning over every 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool only slightly. Continue to set your timer- this time for every 10-15 minutes and while it's still warm, break up and stir the popcorn at these intervals until it's cooled completely. This will keep it from sticking together in mammoth blocks. When completely cooled, transfer to containers and keep in a cool, dry place.