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Caramel Popcorn


This is one of the very first things I tasted out of my good friend Ruthy's kitchen.  I was in love from the start, but I was afraid to try my hand at caramel... something about getting it to a "soft ball stage" intimidated me.  It seemed like there was too much room for error.  I finally took the plunge today, about 7 years later, ha!

From the kitchen of Ruthanne Hotton

3 gallons popped corn  (About 1-1/2 cups un-popped kernels)
2 ¼ cups brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup margarine/butter
1 cup corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Pop the popcorn in to two BIG bowls... (I actually used three because I don't have any HUGE ones.) Pull out any un-popped kernels. (Ruthy said that to make it easier she usually popped one bowl and then scooped up the popcorn in to the second bowl so all the dead kernels fall to the bottom. This worked great.)  


After you have popped the corn, start on your caramel. In a large saucepan, (I used my dutch oven), combine the brown sugar, condensed milk, butter, corn syrup and salt.  Over medium heat, (I did 7 on my electric stove), bring the ingredients to a boil, and continue to let it boil until it reaches the soft ball stage, (mine took between 10-12 minutes). You can use a candy thermometer, but another way to test it is to just keep a cold cup of iced water next to the stove and drop a bit of your hot caramel in it... If it forms a soft ball in the iced water, it's ready. If it just swirls around, keep cooking.  Once it is ready, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Split the caramel between the bowls of popcorn and stir quickly to coat.  Let cool a bit... that stuff is BURNING hot.

I also thought it was pretty in bags to give as treats.




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