Friday, February 11, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Caramel Popcorn

This week's adventure in cooking came thanks to Linda James (still Mrs. James in my brain), the former home-ec teacher at Diamond High School.

Thanks to re-connecting on Facebook, I now have someone I can bug (I mean consult) about my crazy cooking questions.

She was very gracious to share with me her "heirloom" recipe for Caramel popcorn. Yum.

I've been craving it since my mom found me an air popcorn popper. One of my early church memories takes place at Almena United Methodist Church, Almena, Kansas, when my parents were part of the "young" parents and a bunch of the parents were in the small kitchen making caramel popcorn - I assume for a holiday gathering -- just one of my random memories of the church that served as the foundation for my faith journey.

Because I couldn't find mom's original recipe, I have been searching for a "tried and true" recipe and well, Mrs. James' recipe fit the bill. She gave me permission to share it on the blog, because while she never gave it out in printed form to students, it was always on the chalk board to be copied down.

I never had a chance to "copy" it, because well, I was too busy in the next door classroom taking ag classes.

So without further ado  - Albert James, Jr.'s Caramel Popcorn (circa 1970s or early 1980s).

Step 1
Pop 1 cup of popcorn kernels, Pop it and then spread it out
on a large baking pan with a rim. 
Keep the popcorn warm in a 225 degree oven.
Note: We used a roasting pan.

Step 2
In a medium saucepan combine 1 C. brown sugar (packed),
1/3 C. water and 1/4 C. butter.

Step 3
Bring those ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly.
Cook it to the "caramel stage" (a.k.a. medium soft ball).
Note: A candy thermometer is pretty handy for this step.

Step 4
Pour this caramel sauce over the warm popped corn. 
 Bake it for 30 to 40 minutes @ 225 degrees.
Stir it every 10 minutes.

Step 5
Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

It made a light, caramel coated popcorn snack.
It dried quite nicely and it made a lovely snack for the second half of the Super Bowl. It wasn't overtly sweet - just the right combination of popcorn and caramel.

Things I learned or tried ...
I made this with my friend Melissa,
and here are a few of our observations.

1) We used a roasting pan, with a lid, to cook the popcorn.
We found with the lid helped "stir" the popcorn,
because it loosened the stuff on the bottom of the pan.

2) We doubled the caramel sauce for the popcorn.
It just looked like we had way too much popcorn
and not enough sauce!
It still just gave the popcorn a light coating.
This definitely wasn't "thick" like the popcorn
that comes in cans at Christmas time!

3) We decide that instead of pouring
the sauce onto the popcorn, we should have drizzled it,
then put the lid on the roaster and shake it up.

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