Friday, January 16, 2015

The Great Caramel Corn Caper

I get a hankering for sweets in the weeks after the holidays. That's what happened last weekend when the kitchen was upended with a great caramel corn caper. The whole thing got started earlier in the week when I tried to pop some of the Glass Gem corn that Ed grew in the farm gardens this past summer.

Glass Gem, described as used for popcorn,  is one of the seeds that we bought at Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson. The corn kernels are dried and releasing from the cob, but when placed in hot oil, they turned toasty, but would not pop. Disappointed and still thinking that some caramel corn would taste really good, I turned to commercially grown popcorn and bought a bag of Jack Rabbit yellow popcorn at a nearby grocery.

We have a caramel corn recipe from a cookbook that's been in our kitchen for years that we like to use. It does not use a candy thermometer and the corn is finished by baking it in the oven. Perfect!

I pop the corn in a five quart IKEA pan (it is also my go-to soup pot) using olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons in the pan, over medium high heat. I measure out a third cup of popcorn and, when the oil is hot, put two or three kernels in the pan. As soon as those kernels pop, the rest get added to the pan.

Now it is shake and slide time. I keep the pot moving so that the kernels will not sit in contact with the bottom of the pan and burn. It only takes a few minutes until the sound of the popping stops. That's when all of the kernels are popped and it is time to pour them into another bowl.

I cool the pan down a bit by taking it off the burner. Waiting a few minutes between batches means that the corn is less likely to burn in the pan.  The corn is divided into two baking pans (I use high sided foil pans, the two pans that I also use to bake granola).

Once there is enough popcorn (the recipe calls for 15 cups, but we were buttering, salting and eating!) it is caramel time. I make the caramel in the same pot which is already oiled and ready for the sugary caramel to cook.

After baking soda is added to the hot mixture, you have to work quickly to mix the caramel, now really sticky, into the corn. There will be chunks that form -- we like them! Baked for an hour in the oven this caramel corn really fit the bill for sweets for a January winter weekend. Most of one pan disappeared quickly and the rest was stored in a cookie tin for nibbles during the week.

The great caramel corn caper turned out just fine. Next I will have to try some of the different brands and varieties of popcorn that are available.  And maybe add some peanuts.

Ah, the joy of good food!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! My mother used to make homemade caramel corn every year at Christmas time, and it was so good. I haven't made it since she died, but now I'm thinking I need to try doing this again with the help of your post.