This easy recipe for caramel popcorn makes an extra generous batch of sweet, crunchy caramel corn, ideal as a snack or party food for large gatherings. Caramel popcorn is also a great homemade gift idea. Kids especially might enjoy making caramel corn as a food gift for teachers or relatives.
How to Make Caramel Popcorn
Homemade caramel popcorn is made by coating popped popcorn with a caramel syrup and then baking the popcorn in a slow oven. A slow oven is an oven which is set to a temperature of no more than 300°F (150° C). In the case of caramel corn, the oven temperature must be even lower than 300° F to avoid burning and darkening the caramel coating.
How to Make Simple Syrup as a Substitute for Corn Syrup
The caramel syrup is usually made by mixing brown sugar with butter and corn syrup and then boiling the mixture. Simple syrup can be made at home as a substitute for the corn syrup. To make simple syrup, mix 3/4 cup sugar into 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan or pot. Stir over low heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture simmers. Leave the syrup to simmer without stirring for 10 minutes. Set aside.
How to Make Popcorn on the Stove
To pop popcorn on the stove, heat a large, wide pot over high heat for a minute or two, then add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of the pot, and stir constantly to prevent the popcorn from scorching. Once several kernels have popped, cover the pot with a lid or splatter screen and agitate the pot constantly over the heat to keep the kernels moving. Remove the pot from the heat when the sound of popping kernels has almost stopped. Turn out the popcorn into a large bowl, and repeat with the remaining kernels.
- 10 to 12 quarts of freshly popped popcorn (1 lb. uncooked kernels)
- 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine
- 3 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 cup corn syrup or simple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or flavoring
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 250°F (120° C) . Place the popped popcorn in two very large baking or roasting pans with high sides.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil. Allow the syrup to boil undisturbed for four minutes.
- Stir in the vanilla and baking soda, and immediately pour the hot syrup over the popcorn. Stir to coat the popcorn evenly with the syrup.
- Bake the popcorn for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Each time the popcorn is stirred, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back.
- Allow the popcorn to cool completely before storing in airtight containers.
Give Caramel Popcorn as a Food Gift
To package homemade caramel popcorn to give as food gifts, use glass or plastic jars decorated with colorful ribbons and recipe cards. Alternatively, the popcorn can be put into tightly sealed plastic bags and placed inside gift bags lined with tissue paper. Another gift idea is to fill useful kitchen gift items such as vases, serving bowls or water pitchers with the homemade caramel corn and seal the top with plastic wrap and ribbon.