One of my favorite ‘family’ gifts as a child was the huge three gallon tin of popcorn random people would send us around the holidays. I would sneak popcorn out of that thing like it was nobodies business. The plain popcorn was good and the cheesy popcorn was quite delicious, but everyone knows that it’s the caramel corn that really matters.
Handful after sweet, sweet handful I would binge on caramel corn behind my parents’ backs. ‘Why am I not hungry for dinner, mom? Well, you see, I just so happened to eat and entire tin of popcorn while you weren’t looking.’ Bite after bite I would stuff myself so full of caramel corn, I would be sick, but it didn’t matter because Christmas was the only time of the year that we had caramel corn in our house and I would be damned if I let a single popped kernel of heaven be wasted on anyone other than myself.
To this day I still absolutely love caramel corn and Christmas is still pretty much the only time of year that I eat it. I do try, however, not to eat three gallons all by myself. I said try.
Caramel corn is perfect for the sweet tooth food mongers and salt enthusiasts alike so if you’re poor like me, whip up a batch and pass it out as a really cheap Christmas present.
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Preheat oven to 300, line a baking sheet with foil and spray with coconut oil.
In a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium/high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, add in the corn kernels, cover with a lid and shake the pot to allow the oil to coat each kernel. Let pop until done. Remove from heat and set aside.
In another large pot, melt the butter over medium/high heat, then add in the sugar and corn syrup. Whisk to combine and allow the sugar mixture to come to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. Stir the mixture and continue to cook for an additional 4 minutes, whisking every minute until the mixture is a deep golden color. If you use dark brown sugar instead of light, the mixture will be darker.
Remove from heat and whisk in the salt, baking soda and vanilla. Add the popcorn and mix until evenly coated with caramel. Pour the corn out onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until the caramel reaches a deep amber color.
Let cool completely, break apart larger chunks as needed and store in an airtight container. Or eat it all by yourself like I did.