Saturday, May 21, 2011

Caramel Popcorn

Note: While this recipe is gluten free, it is from the days before our family went dairy free.Things have been a little rough this week. Squirt has caught a stomach virus, and while I will not go into details, the result of his being sick is a massive yuck. He has also had a bit of a runny nose and fever due to the fact that he is teething. I took him in to the pediatrician and the only things we can do are to keep him hydrated, give him probiotics, and wait it out. Luckily for us, he is still a cute and pretty happy little guy.

Gizmo also had a camp out with her fellow girl scouts last night. I know that she needs some time to be on her own, and I am not about to stop her, but it is really hard. It is cliche, but they grow up so fast. I never thought I would think the house seemed empty because there was only three kids there, and yet, it really does.

To do something special for Spike and Princess yesterday, since they were not getting to go on a camp out, I told them I would make popcorn in the evening. After some soul searching, I decided that I really wanted caramel popcorn. And since caramel popcorn is so gosh darn good, I decided to share the recipe on here. This is the same way my mom and dad would make it when I was a kid. Mmmm...nostalgia.

First, pop yourself up some popcorn. We use an air popper. Microwave popcorn is a little funky to me, and my kids eat a helluva lot of popcorn, so it just makes more sense. I pop three batches worth for this recipe. If microwave popcorn is all your have, I am guessing it would probably be four to five bags.
I pop the corn in one container, give it a couple of good shakes, and then carefully transfer it to a larger container. Hopefully, all of the un-popped kernels will be on the bottom. Nothing ruins a sugar rush like a cracked tooth.

Next, in a large pot on medium-low heat, melt a stick of butter. When that is melted, add 4 cups of brown sugar and 1 cup of corn syrup. Stir it while the sugar dissolves. You should make sure that you can not see any sugar crystals, and then add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. Keep frequently stirring until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage. If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature will be 235 to 245 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not have a candy thermometer, get a cup with a few inches of cold water. Drizzle a little bit of the caramel into it, and then reach in and try to form it into a ball, like I did for the picture. If it just dissolves, you need more time. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes to reach the softball stage.

Now you are ready to pour the caramel over the popcorn. You need as big of a container as you can find for this and a stirring utensil that is non-flexible and long. I use a large pot that is roughly the size of a five-gallon bucket, and a large serving spoon. Pour the caramel across the top of the popcorn, and get stirring. The main trick to this is to try and not let the caramel touch your hands. Make sure you get down to the bottom of your container, because the caramel will all pool down there if you don't.

After getting the popcorn as well coated as you possibly can, you can choose how you want to form it. I spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick spray and flatten some in there, and make popcorn balls with the rest. Of course, my family generally eats some while it is still warm and sticky.

Ingredient List:
Popcorn, around 30 cups popped, more or less depending on taste
1 stick of butter
4 cups of brown sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
1 can of sweetened condensed milk