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Family Matters: Caramel Popcorn


When I was growing up, my mom would make popcorn every night after we went to bed. I suppose it was her treat after surviving the day with five kids.

When I was old enough to be aware of the popping sound coming from the stove downstairs, the sound of the Revere™ Ware pan shaking across the electric elements and, of course, the delicious aroma wafting up the staircase, I vowed that as soon as I was old enough, I’d make popcorn every night, too.

It turns out that I don’t, but that’s okay because my mom will still make it for me every time I go home. I’m pretty sure she even still uses the same pan.

When I was a teenager, I’d stay up with her, and she’d make us each a bowl. We’d talk every evening over our bowl of popcorn. I think some evenings, it was the only time I’d emerge from my room after a busy day of school, field hockey practice and homework. I think some days, it probably served as my main meal of the day, if whatever she left me on a plate under a piece of waxed paper got carefully packaged back up and put in the refrigerator for leftovers if I got home way too tired to heat it up.

It’s funny how I was never too tired for popcorn, though, and for stories about how mean the coach was at practice that day, or how Tina J. had said something rude about Kimberly D’s double-layered socks in the hallway at school, or how frustrating it was to have a bottom locker, or how difficult it was to make it all the way to the math hallway in only 3 minutes after fourth period English class. Mom listened, and munched.

In the fall, she’d make double batches of popcorn at night. The next day, we’d use the cool bowls to make caramel corn. Then, we’d have huge batches of sweet stuff that she’d store in a big, white Tupperware® container that also doubled as a cake plate if you flipped it over and used the lid as the base of the cake plate. This was my brother, Jim’s, favorite way to eat popcorn and what he most often requested for his birthday treat to bring to school for his class, which happened to fall the day after Halloween. We’d package up baggies full of caramel popcorn to send in instead of cupcakes. If my memory serves me correctly, we also packaged up bags of caramel popcorn to send home with guests after his wedding 15 years ago, too.

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:
10 cups popped popcorn
salt
1 cup salted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:
Pop popcorn on stove according to package directions. If using microwave popcorn (use plain, not buttered), pop in package. Salt and let cool.

Melt 1 cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, and stir until thoroughly combined. Stirring continuously, bring the butter and sugar mixture to a boil.

Boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Add the vanilla; stir to mix. Boil for 1 more minute, and add the baking soda.

Remove from heat. Spread the popcorn on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper, parchment paper or aluminum foil. Drizzle the caramel over the popcorn. Stir, coating all the kernels. Let cool.

Chef Tip: Store this in an airtight container, or it will get sticky and messy.

If you’d like to make this into popcorn balls, form them into a ball shape right after pouring the caramel over the popcorn. You might want to wear food-grade gloves to protect your hands.

Add Ins: Mix in nuts, marshmallows, chocolate candies or other treats to make a fun, festive snack mix.

Serves 10

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 251, Fat: 19 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 49 mg, Sodium: 664 mg, Carbohydrates: 21 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 14 g, Protein: 1 g.


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