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Homemade Cracker Jack® Caramel Corn

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When I was a little kid, Cracker Jack was one of my favorite treats. Today, Cracker remains an iconic popcorn treat, with caramel and nuts. The fun prizes like real whistles and rings are long gone, but as a grown up, I still love Cracker Jack. I was surprised at how easy it is to make your own, and this will become a regular treat. These are perfect for Halloween treats and for Christmas gift bags. Recipe slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour. You can see a pictorial on how I made this, by clicking on the source link to my blog, "A Feast for the Eyes".

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Rate this recipe 4.6/5 (19 Votes)

Ingredients

  • EQUIPMENT:
  • Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper
  • 2 large baking sheets or one deep roasting pan, lined with parchment paper or with a silpat mat
  • INGREDIENTS:
  • 15 cups popped corn (1/2 cup kernels, unpopped)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups peanuts, optional (I used Spanish peanuts)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Details

Servings 15
Preparation time 20mins
Cooking time 150mins
Adapted from afeastfortheeyes.net

Preparation

Step 1

Preheat your oven to 200°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet (18 x 13-inch) with parchment paper (or use a deep roasting pan, which is my preference. Pour the popped corn into a large bowl (at least 6 quarts); remove any un-popped kernels. If using, add the peanuts, mix and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat cook the molasses, brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Stirring occasionally, boil the syrup for 5 minutes. The syrup will darken slightly. Note: This is about 230°F, close to softball stage in candy making.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla, and add the baking soda. Stir well as the mixture turns foamy.

Immediately (and carefully) pour the hot syrup over the popped corn and stir until the corn is well coated.

Spread the hot caramel corn into the parchment-lined pan. Note: I spread mine onto two baking sheets. Bake at 200°F for one hour. Stir the corn every 15 minutes during this time.

Remove from the oven. This caramel corn is a warm, sticky, sweet and crunchy treat straight from the oven. It can also be cooled and stored airtight for several days. This recipe doubles and triples very well.

KAF Notes: To make popcorn balls on a stick, omit the baking soda from the recipe. As soon as you can handle the corn without burning yourself, form it into 1-cup balls, inserting a lollipop stick or skewer at one end of each.

Be sure to assiduously remove any unpopped kernels; you'll get most of them by shaking the bowl of popped corn, and scooping out the hard kernels that sift to the bottom. If you don't remove them, the syrup will allow them to adhere to popped kernels, and the next thing you know — ouch! A dental bill.

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