I primarily do this at Christmas time, but really you can make it whenever. Usually I make it to give to people that I want to give something to, but we’re not specifically exchanging gifts. Most of the time I make a big batch and then split it into cello bags tied with ribbon to give to my favourite servers at the pub and other characters that I just want to be nice to…
I used to make this and other homemade treats and make lovely gift baskets for the holidays. I thought of this today as I was thinking I might make it for a friend’s birthday…. it could also be a nice Valentine’s Day gift – either one giant batch for someone or split it up amongst a bunch. If Valentine’s screams “CHOCOLATE” to you, you could even drizzle melted chocolate over it once it’s cooled… I just came up with that idea… maybe I’ll try that… Regardless, whenever I make this people LOVE it and usually end up eating the whole bag themselves and not sharing with their families. ;P
- 7 quarts plain popped popcorn (either do it on the stovetop although I have done it in the microwave – but not the bagged chemically stuff. I usually just put some kernals in an old paper bag – LCBO ones work well… and pop it on the popcorn setting. Experiment! It’s fun!)
- 2 cups roasted nuts (optional – I sometimes use pecans, but you could use whatever your favourite is..)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter (you can use margarine, but butter is just better. Unless you are vegan)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the popped popcorn into a large roasting pan or two smaller pans if you don’t have a large one. I like to use one big deep one as it’s easier to mix. I have never greased the pan although I know some who do. Add the nuts to the popped corn if using. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Mix the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
Super important step. Too little or too much cooking and you won’t get a good consistency of caramel. Make sure you’re cooking this in a deep enough pot because of the next step.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and really foam up (hence the deep pot). Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don’t worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated – as when you are stirring it, it will continue to coat.
**Also.. just so you know, sometimes I make a double batch of caramel, or leave a bit of popcorn out to make it much more caramely (sure it’s a word). The important thing is getting the measurements on the caramel right and cook it correctly.
Bake for 1 hour, removing the pan, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT to get your corn coated in lovely lovely caramel. Line the counter top or table with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then you can separate a bit more (sometimes it’s easier when it’s cooler. Store in airtight containers or bags. I use the decorated cello bags. Plastic bags can sometimes make it soggy. And be SURE that it’s cooled COMPLETELY before packing it up!