Recipe: Caramel Popcorn

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I seem to be making caramel popcorn weekly, and it struck me when Michael commented that he didn’t know why people don’t make popcorn from scratch because it’s so darn easy—and cheap. This recipe will give you sweet corn for a crowd, so make some before the Giants game today or later this week. Following the steps just to make the popcorn gives you a base to be as creative as you want. Make savory popcorn by adding melted butter, salt, pepper and grated Parmesan. Make a quick sweet corn by shaking on cinnamon sugar while it’s hot. The possibilities are limitless!

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Servings: 10
Time: 20 minutes active; about 40 minutes total

1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
2/3 cup popcorn kernels, divided
1/2 cup butter (I used Earth Balance, which makes it vegan)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1. In a 3-quart pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup popcorn kernels and swirl so the oil coats the corn. Cover with a lid. (Note: these measurements of oil and popcorn are for exactly a 3-quart pot. If you don’t have that size pot, you may need to trial-and-error the correct mix to get fluffy popcorn (which is what I did—needless to say there were many burnt batches in the process). Also make sure you use a heavy-bottom pot or the heat will be too hot and burn the kernels before they can pop.

2. Shake the pot every minute or so. After about 5 minutes, you’ll hear the corn start to pop. Shake the pan frequently to keep things moving. After about 2 minutes, the popping should slow. When there is 5 seconds in between pops, it’s done. Pour into a big bowl and repeat with the remaining oil and corn. Since the pot is already hot, popping should start within 2 minutes and again be done about 2 minutes after that. Set popcorn aside.

3. In a small pot, heat butter over medium heat. When fully melted, add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Whisk together until brown sugar is melted. Let stand for a few minutes and when it begins to boil, set a timer for 4 minutes and don’t mix it. When the timer beeps, remove it from the heat and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will lighten and puff up.

4. Pour hot caramel over the popcorn in a slow, steady stream while constantly mixing to coat popcorn. You can cool in the bowl or spread on a baking sheet—you just need to decide before the caramel cools.

Writer Bio: Adrienne D. Capps loves food and is a vegetarian—she doesn’t believe these things are mutually exclusive. A vegetarian for the past nine years, Capps created Vegetarianized.com as a way to share her passion for eating, drinking and cooking—and to make vegetarianism more accessible. The blog transforms meat dishes into vegetarian or improves vegetarian recipes and puts the results up in a weekly post called the Sunday Serving on the blog and at the Facebook Group Vegetarianized. Capps is also a food writer, teaches cooking classes in Davis and is an amateur caterer. Upcoming cooking classes and recent food articles are found on the blog home page.