Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Caramel Popcorn

Wow. Sorry, but these photos are pretty bad.  My camera display is broken and Niall's camera is traveling in Sweden right now.  So here are some sad pictures of Caramel Popcorn.

My grandma used to make popcorn balls every Christmas.  I really like them (not just in December), and got the recipe from my mom.  The recipe scared me because, frankly, I'm not very good at making candies.  And it referenced "soft ball" stage.  For the pros this is no big deal, but I had to get a candy thermometer before I could make the popcorn myself.  I halved the recipe and still had enough caramel sauce for two large bowls of popcorn.


1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Karo white syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 cube, or about 4 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup popping corn
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

In a medium sized saucepan, combine the brown sugar and Karo syrup together and bring to a boil.  Add the butter and condensed milk and cook to the soft ball stage*.  (If you're like me then that means add the candy thermometer and cook until it reads 234 degrees F or 116 degrees C.)

Once it reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat.

Back in the day we used to have an air popper to make popcorn.  But I don't have one now, so I make all my popcorn on the stovetop.

In a saucepan, I add the vegetable oil and 2-3 kernels of popcorn and turn the heat to medium high.

I wait for all the kernels to pop, then I remove the pan from the heat and remove the popped kernels.  I add the amount of unpopped kernels I want to pop (for our medium saucepan I can only do about 1/3 cup of popcorn at a time), put the glass lid on top, and put the pan back on the stove.  This way the pan/oil are already heated and pretty much all the kernels pop at the same time.

I leave the pot on the burner and shake it a little.  Once the popcorn really starts popping (I think the phrase is "popping in earnest"), shake the pan back and forth.  I think this is to prevent the popcorn from burning?  It reminds me of when I was little and we used to make Jiffy Pop.  Keep the popcorn on the stove and keep shaking the pan until the popcorn either:

1) reaches the top of the lid
2) popping becomes less frequent (three seconds between pops)

Crack the lid to allow the steam to escape and allow the popcorn to cool for a few minutes.  Pour the popcorn in a large bowl and pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn.  (As my mom says, "To make a more caramelly ball add less popped corn.  For a less caramelly ball add more popped corn.")  Toss to evenly coat the kernels.

*My mom told me the way she tests it is to get a small cup of water and drop some of the caramel sauce in it.  If the caramel balls together in the water, but is still gooey to the touch, then it's ready.  I keep using the thermometer and then doing the water test, hoping that someday it becomes natural.


Jo said...

so my question is, is this a hard-caramel popcorn ball or a soft-caramel popcorn ball? i decided recently i like the soft gooey ones and wanted a recipe. does it just depend on how long you cook the caramel?

niall and mitch said...

It's soft, at least for the first two days. (Uh, we never get past day two.) I wish I knew more about caramels and cooking times. I'm guessing the higher the temperature the harder the caramel gets (since cooking past the "soft ball" stage puts the caramel in the "hard ball" stage, at least that's what my candy thermometer tells me.) But maybe living in humid England plays a part??

Susan Cannon said...

You need your own cooking show. Move over Rachel Rae!