I don’t know how Thanksgiving works with your family but I imagine it is somewhat similar to how it works with mine. Siblings, spouses, kidders, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who happens to want a good meal that day gathers at my mother’s house. Most of us come in toting various dishes full of our contributions to the meal and add them to the already heavily laden table of goodies. My mother’s oven is still going full blast with rolls, mac and cheese, or perhaps even the turkey. The smells of pies, cinnamon, smoked meats, and yeast rolls are so good they are positively torturous. If you weren’t hungry before, you sure are now!
Now the hard part: We have to wait. Whether its for a few more dishes to be done or more family members to make their way through the door, we always have to wait. Now, for the adults this isn’t such a bad thing. However, we have five little folks in our family ages nine and under and they are a different issue altogether. As the little faces look over the table and desserts and take in the smells of all of their favorite dishes, they are hungry NOW.
Several years back, I got the bright idea of making homemade caramel corn to take to Thanksgiving in order to help fight off the munchies until dinnertime. Not only was it a hit with the kids (and kept them considerably more patient) but the adults seemed to delight in being able to grab a handful of something to snack on even more! This is now my personal Thanksgiving tradition. Aunt Christy brings the caramel corn.
But this delicious snack has many more uses than that! Homemade caramel corn is very easy and extremely inexpensive to make. This makes a lovely Christmas gift when packaged in a clear cellophane bag and tied with a little ribbon.
First we’re gonna make some popcorn, the old fashioned way.
I was speaking with a girl in her early twenties a few months back and mentioned something about old fashioned popcorn, and she thought the old fashioned way of making it was in an air popper. She had honestly never heard of folks making it on the stove or even campfire for that matter. For that reason alone, y’all need to make some of this! Not to mention how incredibly inexpensive it is as opposed to microwave style. Did I mention how much better it tastes?
Heat some oil in a large pot. I used about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.
Save your fancy oil for a fancy dish, we’re just making caramel corn here!
Pour in your popcorn kernels. I just have plain old kernels here. I am using about a cup and a half or so. Normally, I would salt this but I am going to use salt in my sauce so we’re good.
Now put a lid on your pot and continue cooking it on medium heat. It will take a few minutes for the kernels to get hot but once they do they will start popping all over the place!
This is the part my Katy absolutely loves to watch. We get a dining room chair and set it up near the oven and she waits for the popping to start while I stand nervously between her and the pot to make sure she doesn’t get burned.
If you’ve never made homemade popcorn before, please don’t forget the lid on your pot. Popcorn projectiles are VERY hot!
When it starts popping, I hold the handles of my pot and shake it gently from side to side to help get my kernels on the bottom distributed better so they will pop evenly. Keep the lid on and keep the pot sitting on the eye.
I really need more light in my kitchen but it’s so small though that even a candle would feel crowded :).
This is your finished popcorn. Now I popped three big pots of this. I ended up with about three gallons of popped popcorn. Lets make the good stuff now!
You’ll need: Salt, Honey, Vanilla, Margarine, Baking Soda, and Brown Sugar (there are two sticks of margarine pictured but one is hiding coz my margarine is shy)
The Morton salt is my Thiokol thing again. See this post on why I always use it (scroll down to the grandparent part).
In a heavy saucepot, place your margarine, brown sugar, and honey.
I stir that up a bit and turn the heat on medium.
Stir constantly while everything melts and it comes to a boil.
Once it comes to a boil, stop stirring and let boil for about three minutes, undisturbed.
Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. You need to use a pan with a lip on it because we’re going to stir it every fifteen minutes and you don’t want to drop a ton of popcorn into the bottom of your oven (which I always do anyway).
Once it has boiled for three minutes, remove from heat and add in your baking soda.
This will make it foam up a bit, just stir it a little.
This is how it looks when its a bit foamy.
Now add in your vanilla…
And your butter flavoring. If you don’t have butter flavoring just use more vanilla in its place.
I am a huge advocate for butter flavoring. I don’t know much that doesn’t taste even better with it!
Pour your popcorn into a dishpan or very large bowl. I use my big old red plastic dishpan.
I am also a huge advocate for big red plastic dishpans…Hey, we all gotta stand for something.
I wish I could show you this great artsy shot of the caramel sauce being drizzled over my popcorn. A shot like that would be awesome here, wouldn’t it? Well, Katy was taking a nap, Brady was at school, the newly enslaved webmaster was at work…so that left me and…
Daz, the cat. He didn’t seem too concerned so I just poured the caramel over the popcorn and got a photo of stirring it in there.
Spread that out on your greased baking sheet and place in the oven at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. I had to use two baking sheets to be able to hold all of my popcorn. After the first half an hour, I swap the sheets so the bottom one is on the top and top on bottom.
I set my oven timer on fifteen minutes so I can remember.
After an hour take it out and let it cool. It will look all golden and pretty like this.
I packaged mine in those inexpensive clear party favor bags I told y’all about in my Chocolate Gravy Mix post. Those pretty bows are these babies…
I got them in the Christmas decoration department. Twenty for two dollars and they are perfect for using with these bags when filled with mixes, caramel corn, or little loaves of bread.
Now you have a great snack or an impressive gift!
- 1 Cup honey
- 1 Cup margarine (two sticks)
- 1 Cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Tsp salt
- ½ Tsp baking soda
- 3 gallons popped popcorn
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp butter flavoring (can use more vanilla)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets. In heavy saucepot, combine margarine, honey, brown sugar, and salt. Turn on medium heat and stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring and let boil, undisturbed, for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and flavorings. Place ½ of cooled popcorn in a large dishpan (I do mine in two batches) and pour half caramel sauce over. Stir until evenly coated. Spread onto baking sheet and repeat with remainder on another baking sheet.
- Place in oven and bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Allow to cool and break apart before placing in airtight container.
I thought I’d never get this post done today! Isn’t it funny how we make our plans and life interrupts at will? I’m going to bring you a yummy casserole tomorrow filled with nothing but comfort ingredients! It freezes well, too!
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