Caramel corn is a popular sweet treat made of popcorn coated with a sugar or molasses-based caramel. Typically, the sugar solution or syrup is heated until it browns and becomes thick. This produces a caramelized candy syrup. This syrup is then mixed with popped popcorn, and allowed to cool.
A candy thermometer can be used, as making caramel corn is time-consuming process and requires skill to make without burning the sugar. The process creates a delicious, sweet flavored, crunchy snack treat. In some recipes, after coating with the candy syrup it is baked in an oven to crisp the mixture. This can be mixed with nuts, such as peanuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews for a little variation.
History of Caramel Corn
While caramel corn surfaced in the late 1800s, the concept of sweetened popcorn had been around many years prior. In fact, kettle corn, which is popcorn cooked in oil with both sugar and salt was referenced in historic accounts by the Dutch who settled in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. Kettle corn, the first sweet popcorn was often made for special occasions and holidays. While the kettle corn was a popular treat for a large part of the 19th century, it was until the 1870s when caramel corn was introduced
Two German brothers, Frederick and Louis Rueckheim immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago. They opened a popcorn store in the 1870s and began experimenting with different flavors and toppings. They introduced a new spin on the treat that was a mix of popcorn, peanuts, and molasses that quickly became a hit.
As the story goes, after someone sampled the product they exclaimed “That’s a crackerjack!” (which in the vernacular of the day meant “of great quality”), the name stuck and in 1896 the brothers registered Cracker Jack and began manufacturing the snack. Their success led others to experiment with different types of syrups and coatings to put on popcorn and the caramel corn revolution began.
How to make caramel corn
Although there are many mass-produced versions of caramel corn, it is not difficult to make at home. Here's a super simple recipe that you can make with ingredients you probably already have in your cupboards.
Delicious Caramel Corn Recipe
4 quarts of popped yellow or white popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Karo Light Corn Syrup (Dark corn syrup can be used if you prefer a darker flavor)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Step 1. Pop popcorn.
Step 2. Spray large shallow roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add popped popcorn and place in preheated oven at 250 degrees F.
Step3. Mix brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat.
Step 4. Boil mixture for 5 minutes without stirring and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Mix well.
Step 5. Pour mixture over popcorn, stir to coat evenly.
Step 6. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and spread the coated popcorn onto foil.
Step 7. Allow the caramel corn to cool. Then enjoy.
You can always try to make your own caramel corn, or you can find a local retailer that sells a great product or find one online. If you are in the Kansas City area, check out one of Nellie's Sweet Shoppe's locations in Smithville or Hamilton. You can also find them online at nelliessweetshoppe.com