Caramel Corn always reminds me of summer time fun--county fairs, baseball games, and outdoor movie nights. The candy coated popcorn that comes in a box or a tin tastes nothing like the real thing! The effort is minimal and the result is worth it.
This recipe has three main ingredients--butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar--which blend together to create a yummy, addictive, and decadant treat.
7 quarts(or enough to fill two deep baking sheets) plain popped popcorn (Do not use microwave popcorn)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I like Karo brand)
2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
optional: 2 cups dry roasted peanuts
Step 1: Popping the Popcorn the Old Fashioned Way
For this recipie, pop the corn in a heavy bottomed pot that's wide enough for the kernels and has a lid. Following the directions on the bag of corn, pop two batches and dump the popped corn onto two deep baking sheets, jelly roll pans, or roasting pans that have been lined with parchment paper. You need an edge or lip to the pans so the kernels don't fall out. If using peanuts, add them now and stir to mix in evenly. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit.
Step 2: Creating the Caramel
Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring to blend ingredients. Once the mixture begins to slowly bubble, keep slow boiling for 4 minutes while stirring constantly. The color will slightly darken but watch it so it doesn't burn! Color should be a light brown. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Doing Some Chemistry
Stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will become lighter and a little foamy (this is the chemical reaction to the vanilla and baking soda). Immediately pour the hot caramel over both pans of popcorn. Using a big spoon or rubber spatula, coat as many kernals as you can with the caramel. Don't worry too much at this point about getting all the popcorn coated, but be careful of the hot caramel!
Step 4: Last Step!
Bake for approximately one hour but remove the pans from the oven every 15 minutes to stir and coat the popcorn with the bubbly caramel. The caramel corn is done when the coating is caramel colored :) Do not over bake. Burnt caramel corn doesn't taste so good.
Line a counter top or table with waxed paper or more parchment paper. Pour out the popcorn and separate the pieces. Careful, it's still very hot. Cool completely before trying! Caramel corn is very sticky when hot, but crisps up when cooled. Store in airtight container or reusable plastic bags.