To make this you will need popcorn (6 quarts popped), unsalted butter (1 stick), brown sugar (2 cups), corn syrup (1/2 cup), salt (1 teaspoon), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), and baking soda (1/2 teaspoon) (not baking powder!). It will also help to have non-stick cooking spray. You will also need an oven, measuring spoons, a measuring cup, a wooden spoon, a large metal container, a pan and a timer of some sort.
- You can use margarine, I guess, but in 2010 I found that butter is better. Smoother.
- Dark brown sugar is richer, rounder tasting. It has more molasses in it. I like it.
- For cinnamon caramel corn, add 3/4 teaspoon to the brown sugar and salt.
1. Find a container that is metal and big enough to hold 6 quarts of popcorn. It can be a big bowl, a foil baking pan, or even, in a pinch, a couple of cookie sheets with sides.
2. Spray your container with a light coat of non-stick cooking spray. If you use too much, the caramel corn will be oily.
3. Make popcorn. You’ll need about 6 quarts, which is 24 cups, which is about two bowls in a Back to Basics PC17589 Electric Stir-Crazy Popcorn Popper. (Note to self: find a bowl that will hold 6 quarts as the measure, like the blue bowl) Put it in your container.
4. Turn the oven on to about 200 degrees (25 degrees either way won’t make much difference).
5. On the counter, gather 1 stick of butter or margarine, 2 cups of brown sugar (light or dark), 1/2 cup of corn syrup (Karo is the most common brand. It comes in light or dark. Use either. Generic works, too) and 1 teaspoon of salt. (By the way, a cup is a technical term not just a mug. A teaspoon is also a technical term, not a plain spoon). Those are the first ingredients. You’ll also need to have 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda ready.
6. Take a pan that will hold all of those ingredients and put in on one of the burners of the stove.
7. Turn the heat to low.
8. Put the butter in the pan and watch it melt. When it is almost all melted, dump the 2 cups of brown sugar in. Dump the 1 teaspoon of salt in. Dump the 1/2 cup of corn syrup in. (add all three of these within about 30 seconds).
9. Turn the heat to medium (about 5) and start stirring with a wooden spoon (Could use a plastic or silicon cooking spoon. Don’t use metal. It gets hot)
10. As you stir, the mixture will start to bubble around the edges (boiling). When it starts to bubble/boil, turn on a timer for 5 minutes, set the spoon down, and rest. (Note: @joannayoung says don’t be tempted to stick your finger in the mix).
11. After 5 minutes, move the pan to a burner that isn’t hot. Within about 10 seconds, pour 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and then 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into the goo. Start stirring. It will turn from a molten mass (like lava) into brown shaving cream. Keep stirring until it is all the same color.
12. Pour this foamy mixture over the popcorn in the metal container, spreading it as much as possible. Now grab the spoon and stir the popcorn/foam mixture. You won’t get it even, but do the best you can.
13. Put the container in the oven. Set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer sounds, pull the pan out and stir it again. (Some caramel may end up on the bottom of the container. Make sure you spoon it back on top). Put the pan back in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes again. When it sounds, pull the container out and stir it again. Put the container back in and set the timer for 10 minutes again. When it sounds, pull the container out, stir it one more time and then let the caramel corn cool.
14. Wash the dishes. It helps to fill the pans with hot water and about a soup spoon of dish soap and let them soak. It dissolves the caramel.