Finally! Here is the long-ago promised recipe for my family’s favorite movie night dessert. Happy cooking!
caramel corn: generously serves 4-8; modestly serves a party of about 10-12
1 C butter (preferably from grass-fed cows), cold and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1 C unrefined sugar (I’ve used both sucanat and coconut/palm sugar with success.)
1 tsp unrefined salt (I use Redmond Real Salt, if you’re looking for some.)
1-3 tsp unsulfured, blackstrap molasses (use with discretion– the more you use, the darker the flavor you’ll achieve. My family likes closer to 3 tsp.)
1/4 C organic, grade B maple syrup (This is the healthiest [and tastiest!] option, but grade A is a good substitute. Artificial maple syrups are likely to be unsatisfying/cloying subs, so I’d steer clear of them.)
1 Tbl organic pure vanilla extract (Non-organic is a good sub, but artificial extract may behave differently, so I’d avoid artificial, if you can.)
2 Tbl baking soda (This isn’t exact– you could probably use anywhere from 1-3 Tbl successfully.)
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3/4 C – 1 C organic, un-popped popcorn kernels (These are very cheap if bought in bulk.)
2-3 Tbl organic, virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil (A high quality EVOO may be used instead, but its fragile molecular structure doesn’t hold up nearly as well under the high-heat conditions you’ll pop the corn under. But in a pinch, it works.)
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1. Popcorn: pour the measured oil into a large, stainless steel pot (try to avoid Teflon here due to the high heat, if you can). Turn your heat to med.- med. high to melt the oil. Allow to heat for a minute or two while you get your popcorn kernels together, and add kernels. Cover pot with a lid. Turn heat from med. high to high. Gather caramel ingredients while waiting for the first consistent pops. Once the kernels begin to pop consistently, you’ll need to stir the pot nearly constantly while leaving it on the heat. (We hold the handles of our pot with potholders and shake the pot back and forth, leaving its bottom either in contact with the stove or just an inch or two above.) Continue until the frequency of the pops has decreased to the occasional protest from a lonely kernel here and there. Pour into your largest mixing bowl.
2. Caramel: before turning on your heat, add all ingredients (preferably in order), except vanilla and baking soda. Turn heat to med. high. Whisk briskly until the mixture has transformed from molten-lava oily liquid (be careful not to splash yourself) to a substance that sticks to itself so that you can see large glimpses of the bottom of your pot when you whisk it. (Don’t be discouraged if your first batch doesn’t work out. This takes practice, and your cooking time will greatly vary on how your family likes it. Cook it more for a hard caramel coating; cook it less for a softer, stick-to-your-fingers coating. Thankfully, if you have men in your family, the caramel will disappear quickly. [The rate at which it disappears depends on the number of males you have circling your cooking area at the time. 😉 ]) Remove from heat. Still whisking briskly, add vanilla. Add baking soda and whisk faster for about 30 sec. (Your arm may be screaming at you by this point, but it will remain attached, I promise.) Pour onto your popcorn all at once. Mix with a very large spatula or scraper or wooden spoon until the popcorn is evenly coated. Allow to cool for a few minutes (seriously– you’ll blister your fingers).