Oh yes, this was SO much fun to make!
My husband and I frequently make popcorn from scratch as a snack, and have tried adding sugar to create the sweetness of “kettle corn” with mixed results because we often end up burning the sugar. So, this time, I decided to try something new. One snack we LOVE is Harry & David’s Moose Munch, but alas, they are not gluten free. That puts a damper on things. They are also too sweet, because they smother the caramel too much on the popcorn. But homemade caramelized popcorn? I have to be able to figure out how to make that!
First thing I did was pop the popcorn in a lot of butter and salt. Cause seriously, butter + salt = awesomeness. Then the trick became how to figure out how to add the caramel. I melted some sugar and vanilla to create the caramel, and first tried like I did when I made candied walnuts. I laid the popcorn out and poured the caramel over them, but that just created yummy flat caramel candy with popcorn stuck in it. It was still really tasty mind you, but just not really what I was going for. So for trial two, I thought I’d do it more “rice krispies treat” style. I melted the sugar in a larger pot, and once it caramelized, added in the popcorn to the pot while stirring the caramel – this got the caramel all over the popcorn much better, and made it quite yummy Perfect late night snack – or afternoon snack, or breakfast, ha I can’t control myself with such tasty salty caramel popcorn around!
1/2 cup corn kernels
4 tbs. butter
generous helping of salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Cut butter into pieces and melt into a very large tall pot (I use my largest stock pot), or at least one 10″ in diameter.
2. Pour kernels into pot so that they cover the bottom (but don’t pile on top of each other) – you just want the surface of the pot covered. Add in salt.
3. Put heat med-high to high with the lid on. Wait til the first kernels start to pop. Then, with potholders shake the pot every minute or so to make sure that the popcorn doesn’t burn. When most of it is popped, call it done. Set aside.
4. In another large pot, pour in the sugar. On med to med-high heat, with a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the sugar melts. Add in the vanilla now. You want the sugar to turn brown, but not burn. I let mine get to a pretty golden amber color (as you can tell I clearly am not a candy maker), and then while stirring with one hand, used the other hand to dump in handfuls of the popped popcorn, stirring all the while. The popcorn will pick up the sticky caramel and become yummy.
5. Quickly remove from the pan before the caramel hardens and I let it cool on some parchment paper. Sprinkle more salt.
Oh and yes, you are looking at half of my kitchen in the background of that first pic. I need a bigger kitchen.