Caramel popcorn is a terrific, inexpensive gift for people to whom you want to give a little something to recognize the season and their intrinsic goodness. It's cheap, not a lot of work, and it tastes delicious. Basically, it amounts to 1. Pop corn. 2. Boil sugar and light corn syrup. 3. Pour over popcorn. 4. Bake for an hour.
However, one needs to be careful with step four, noting that you bake it at 250 degrees, not 350. I first tried to make this Wednesday night but, without my glasses, I set the oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit. My husband came charging downstairs about 45 minutes later to tell me that the whole mess was burning. And indeed it was.
So I scraped off and ate what little was not burnt and tried again on Thursday evening as my daughter and I were getting ready for a dinner party held in celebration of son the lawyer being admitted to the Maryland Bar. This time, it was a success. My husband quickly hid it on his desk chair to get it away from the celebrating hordes. (The celebrating hordes, average age 28, and primarily lawyers are actually much better behaved than they were at 15, and should be given credit. They probably wouldn't have eaten it.)
The next day, I passed it out to my colleagues. One colleague opened it and tried it and was very impressed. The others thanked me and took it home.
3 tablespoons corn oil
1/2 cup yellow hull-less popcorn
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Pour the oil into a four-quart to fie-quart heavy deep skillet or kettle. Place over medium high heat and add a kernel of popcorn. When the kernel pops, remove it and add the one-half cup popcorn. Place cover on kettle, leaving a small air space at the edge of the cover. Shake pot frequently until popping stops. Remove from heat.
3. Measure two and one-half quarts of the popcorn (the remainder can be eaten plain.) and place in a large bowl. Place in oven and keep warm.
4. Melt the butter in a two-quart saucepan. Stir in the sugar, syrup and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and boil five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Pour over the warm popcorn, mixing in well to coat each piece.
5. Separate pieces of popcorn and place one layer only on two large baking sheets. Bake one hour. Cool popcorn completely (it crisps on standing. ) Store in airtight containers. Makes two and one half quarts.