Caramel Corn (aka my version of Cracker Jack)
Although Cracker Jack was not invented in the 50s or 60s, it was a common feature in lunch bags and snack cabinets during these decades. I’ve adapted this dish from simplyrecipes.com- If it’s not the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted, there’s something very wrong with your mouth. I definitely recommend using the peanuts; they add a great flavor and texture. I chose to make my popcorn from scratch, but you can easily make some unsalted and non-buttered in the microwave (Newman’s Own is a great brand). Watch out for rogue un-popped kernels in the midst of snacking- I found that a couple managed to sneak their way into the final product!
– 6 tbsp canola oil
– 2/3 cup popcorn kernels
Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat.Put a few popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan. When the kernels have popped, add the rest of the kernels. Cover and remove from heat for 30 seconds. Return the pan to the heat, making sure to keep the lid slightly ajar for the steam release. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump into a large parchment paper-lined roasting pan.
– 4-5 quarts popped popcorn (above recipe is perfect amount)
– 2 cups packed brown sugar
– 1 cup unsalted butter
– 1/2 cup corn syrup (light or dark will suffice)
– 1 tbsp molasses
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 2 cups salted peanuts (optional)
Heat oven to 225 degrees F. Place popcorn in large roasting pan and set aside. Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat and stir occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. This will cause the caramel will foam up and turn a lighter color. Pour caramel over the popcorn in the pan. If using, add the peanuts at this time as well. Stir with a wooden spoon until all popcorn is coated, making sure not to let the caramel touch your skin- it’s VERY hot! Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir again. Return to oven and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Spread popcorn onto waxed paper-covered cookie sheets. Let cool completely, and break into bite-sized pieces.