I love the holiday season! This is a Christmas tradition in our family. It comes via my Aunt Robin who got it from her sister. It is an indulgence – there is absolutely nothing healthy about it but it is so delicious and incredibly difficult to resist. I only make it once a year, so that’s ok isn’t it?
It is best if you have two people to make it as the caramel begins to set almost immediately when removed from the heat, thus requiring fast action to get the popcorn coated. However, if you can’t find a helper it can be accomplished without assistance. Rubber gloves are a good idea when working with the hot caramel and I wouldn’t make this without the benefit of a candy thermometer.
After years of making one batch with margarine and another with butter, the tasters always slightly favour the margarine batch. As a rule, I avoid margarine, but I make an exception for this recipe. Either is delicious and,if I’d never had the margarine version, I’d be perfectly content with the butter version.
The recipe also calls for a mix of almonds and pecans. I prefer all pecans, so I go with that. It could also be made without nuts.
2 quarts popped popcorn (not the microwave type!)
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine (yes really) or butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo syrup in the U.S.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 piece of parchment paper, crumpled into a loose ball.
For a single batch without assistance:
Spread the popcorn across one or two large roasting pans or cookie sheets with sides keeping the corn close enough together to minimize gaps. If you have a pan large enough to accommodate the popped corn in a single layer, it is easier to work with than two pans. Sprinkle the nuts across the top. Place two wooden spoons or silicone spatulas and the crumpled piece of parchment beside the pan(s).
Melt the margarine or butter in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Add the syrup, vanilla and sugar stirring constantly and bringing to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring regularly for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture reaches 285-290 degrees F on a candy thermometer, putting on the rubber gloves when the temperature reaches about 245 degrees F. Remove from the heat.
Quickly drizzle the caramel in a stream across the corn mixture. Toss the corn with the spatulas or wooden spoons to coat the corn mixture as thoroughly as possible. Use the parchment ball to flatten out the mixture. Allow to cool. When cool, break into pieces storing in an air tight container.
A double batch when I have help:
When I have help, I make a double batch using a larger saucepan to make the caramel and a very large stainless steel bowl filled with the popped corn and nuts to mix in the hot caramel. As I drizzle the hot caramel over the corn mixture, my assistant (wearing the rubber gloves) vigorously tosses the corn mixture and hot caramel, being careful to avoid any contact with the stream of hot caramel. The still hot coated mixture is then turned into two roasting pans, tossed a little more, and flattened with crumpled parchment before being allowed to cool.