In the beginning there was caramel corn

I'm sitting here reading my favorite food blogs while I wait for this caramel corn to finish baking, and it occurs to me: I bake, I cook, I modify recipes. People ask for these recipes all the time, why not start my own blog of deliciousness? If nothing else, this will be a good place for me to record what I'm baking and cooking, as well as what I'm eating in Portland, Oregon. I know of three people already who are dying for the recipe for the brussel sprouts concoction I made for a pre-Christmas dinner. But since the caramel corn is in the oven as we speak, why not start there?

This is my great great Aunt Cathryn's caramel corn recipe, probably circa the 1920s/30s - and it's looking promising. I about scalded my tongue due to my own impatience and driving need to taste the caramel. Remember this as you salivate over your own.

Here is what you need:

A large stock pot filled with 6 quarts of popped corn - unsalted, microwave, air-popped, or stove popped, I can't imagine it matters. I am using Newman's Own unsalted, which I found in the natural foods section. 6 quarts = 2 bags of microwave popcorn.

A heavy duty pot, mid-sized, somewhere around 8 cup (2 quart) capacity.

2 large cookie sheets, greased. I buttered mine, but I bet Pam works fine. However, you will get extra buttery goodness if you use butter (unsalted).

A stove top and an oven preheated to 250 degrees.

This is an old school recipe that does not call for a candy thermometer, and it's easy if you have any experience at all with how sugars change and you know what to look for, and if you don't, I still think you'll be fine, just follow the timing closely


6 quarts (24 cups) unsalted popped corn.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (the original recipe calls for margarine, but this pains me)
2 cups brown sugar, packed (I used one cup light and one cup dark)

1/2 cup corn syrup (recipe calls for light or dark, I used light)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in the pot, but don't let it boil. Add the brown sugar, syrup, and salt and stir. Stir constantly until this mixture boils, you want this to be really smooth. I used a spatula to stir it, but a whisk would probably work even better. Bring this up to the boil, again, while stirring constantly, at about a 7 on your stove top. I find that if you bring sugar to a boil on too high of heat, it just scorches, and no one wants that.

When the mixture is boiling and your stirring doesn't stop the boiling, let it boil on its own for 5 minutes. It's going to climb the insides of the pot a bit, but so long as you use at least a 2 quart pot, you won't overflow. Overflowing caramel = severe burns, serious stickiness. Not good.

Set your timer, it's important to follow the timing closely. You're going to notice the boiling sugar changing in texture just slightly by the end. During this five minutes (or before you start), measure out the vanilla and the baking soda, you have to pour this in immediately after you remove the caramel from the heat. Also, have pot holders ready to set the pot on, and a clean whisk ready to beat the caramel. Keep the pot of popcorn close too.

Okay, when the timer goes off, remove the caramel from the heat and throw in the vanilla and baking soda. It's going to spit a little bit when you do this, but that's normal, the caramel is REALLY hot. Start whisking promptly. Working quickly at this point is very important, because caramel sets up very quickly. The baking soda will change the color of the caramel, so no worries there. When you've incorporated everything, pour it in batches over the popcorn, incorporating it as best you can with a spoon. If you have a random person roaming around the kitchen at this point, enlist them to hold the pan, it's much easier that way.

After you've completely incorporated the caramel, get the caramel pot under hot water immediately, to save yourself unpleasantness later.

Spread the caramel covered popcorn onto the two greased cookie sheets and put in the 250 degree oven for an hour, stirring it every 15 minutes. Remove and cool, break apart.

This recipe notes that you can incorporate peanuts if you wish too, add them to the corn when you pour the caramel.

I'm snacking on this right now, and let me tell you, you wish you were here.

Happy New Year! This caramel corn will help us ring in 2010 tonight.