Butter Caramel Corn

After school, my youngest brother was often found in the kitchen making his own caramel corn. Popcorn has come a long way from its debut in America at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. According to English documents, a Native American named Quadequina brought popped corn to the dinner. The secret to perfect caramel corn is watching the syrup carefully so that it doesn't boil before the sugar has melted. This will cause the caramel to be grainy and sugary instead of crisp and crunchy. Keep the heat on low and it will be perfect.

    1 (3-ounce) bag 94% fat-free microwave popcorn, popped
    1 cup coarsely chopped mixed canned nuts
    ¾ cup granulated sugar
    6 tablespoons butter
    3 tablespoons light corn syrup
    1 tablespoon water
    ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


1.  Preheat the oven to 300°.

2.  Pour popcorn into a large bowl or oversized metal
     roaster. Pick out all the whole kernels. These could
     break your teeth if left in the mix. Stir in nuts.
3.  Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the
     sugar, corn syrup and water. Don’t raise the heat at all until
     sugar crystals dissolve. Stir until syrup comes to a boil and
     reaches 140° on a candy thermometer. It will look creamy
     and bubbly. Remove from heat.

4.  Stir in the baking soda and vanilla just until blended. The   
     mixture will be foamy. Pour syrup over popcorn and nuts,    
     then toss with two wooden spoons until well coated. Pour
     onto an 18 x 13 x 1-inch jelly roll pan.

5.  Bake in a preheated 300° oven for 4 minutes. Stir, then bake
     for another 4 minutes. The popcorn will be golden and not
     dark like regular caramel popcorn. Remove and turn out onto  
     waxed paper. Spread around so it hardens in smaller pieces.       


    Hint: You can add a drop of red food coloring to the syrup for 
    a pink popcorn. When cool, place in cellophane bags and tie 
    with a bow.

    Tasty Idea: If you love caramel, chocolate and pecans, make
    these chocolate turtles that are so easy to make. Melt 40
    unwrapped caramels in the top of a double boiler. Melt 12
    ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a plastic bag in the
    microwave. Place a tablespoon of caramel on a baking sheet,
    arrange pecans around edges, pressing them half way into the
    warm caramel. Then, top with melted chocolate in a swirl.
    Only move them when the caramel has completely set.

    Makes 2 large bags