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Monday, March 29, 2010

Howell Caramel Corn

I decided it was time to share our families “secret” recipe for caramel corn with everyone.  This is a recipe that my sister gave me many years ago.  Every year, starting just after Thanksgiving, I make multiple batches to share with family and neighbors for Christmas.

Howell Caramel Corn
  • 1-cup margarine (Gold n Soft stick margarine, 2 sticks)
  • 2-cups brown sugar (I buy the 25-pound bag at Costco)
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • 1/ 2-cup light corn syrup
  • 1-teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-teaspoon Vanilla
  • 6-quarts of popped popcorn. 
I like to use Jolly Time yellow popcorn popped in an air popper.  This eliminates any extra oil in the popcorn (with one-cup of margarine, there will already be enough fat).  In the past, I tried Orville Redenbacher popcorn, but it is way too energetic in the air popper and at least half the kernels blow out un-popped.  Orville’s popcorn works ok in my WhirleyPop on the stove top, but you have to use some oil in that popper.

I like to pop my popcorn at lower heat, so that I get random looking shapes.  If you cook popcorn using too high of heat, you get round balls that look like cauliflower (I call them brains), and they are dry and stiff.
  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees (225 degrees if using a dark pan like Bakers Secret)
  2. Mix the margarine, sugars, salt, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan.  Stir constantly while heating on medium until everything is melted.
  3. Increase the burner heat until the syrup starts to boil then let it low boil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  (The recipe calls for not stirring during the 5 minutes, but I always stir).  If the syrup smells as if it’s burned, then your heat is too high.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The syrup will start to turn a very light tan color and increase in volume as it foams.
  5. Pour the syrup over the six quarts of popcorn and stir to get an even coating on all the pieces.  We use a very large ceramic bread bowl for this step.  I start with 4 quarts of the popcorn in the bowl then add the syrup.  My wife stirs to coat the popcorn with two large Teflon spatulas while I add the rest of the popcorn and then scrape the remainder of the syrup out of the pan.
  6. Divide the coated popcorn into two non-stick baking pans.  I use two 9x13 Bakers Secret cake pans, the high sides do a very good job of containing the caramel corn while stirring.
  7. Place the pans into the heated oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the contents.  Replace the pans in the oven swapping the pan positions (top to bottom location, bottom to top) after every stirring.
  8. Bake for another 45 minutes, stirring and swapping every 15 minutes.
Let the caramel corn cool for about ten minutes if you want clusters of caramel corn.  Remove the caramel corn from the pan and place in gallon sized Ziploc bags.  One 9x13-cake pan will fit into one-gallon bag.
Now enjoy the results with your friends and family.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

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