My sister, whom we affectionately call Bert thanks to my littlest punky kid, has given me the recipe for the BEST caramel popcorn on the planet. I'm not kidding. The BEST! Its crunchy, sugary, golden goodness.
Back when I lived in Fayetteville, the second time, I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at my house single handedly. I invited the relatives, and some of the guys from my hubby's Unit (who didn't show if I remember correctly). Did I mention that I told everyone they didn't need to bring anything? No, I wasn't suicidal, just cocky. And I pulled it off. (side note: the relatives pulled through for me and brought food anyways, they like me! They really like me!)
All was well, until I decided to make the caramel popcorn. It was going without a hitch, the popcorn was popped and waiting inside the brown paper bag, the caramel had just reached the hard ball stage. Everything was ready, all that was left was to pour the caramel inside the brown bag in order to coat the delish popcorn. Murphy's law was written for me, just so you know. Sure enough Murphy wasn't going to let me pull off a perfect Thanksgiving dinner incident free. Oh no, that would have been the nice thing to do. I suppose my ego needed to be lowered a few notches.
I was trying to hold the spoon in the pot of caramel while I was pouring the caramel into the bag. Spoon slipped, caramel flew, cookbook, counter, and microwave covered in goo; and wouldn't you know it some just HAD to splash onto my hand while I struggled to not drop the pot.
Have you ever had hard ball stage hot candy slapped onto your hand before? Let me tell you, not enjoyable. But I was stuck. I couldn't let go of the pot, the kids were running through the kitchen- mommy instinct saved them big time that day! I couldn't find anywhere to set it down that wasn't already covered in goo. What was I to do? I did what any self respecting Mom does in that situation. I started hopping up and down screaming "OWIE, OWIE, OWIE" at the top of my lungs while ensuring none of the hot magma flew in my offsprings direction.
I want to thank you personally once again for being my Knight in Shinning Armor. You heard my screeching and came running to the rescue! You bravely grabbed the pot out of my poor, already blistering, much abused hands; plopped it right down on the already caramel covered counter, and assisted me to the sink to try and wash off the offending, still hot as crap, still delicious tasting, goop. I will never forget your lightning fast assessment of the situation, your bravery in the face of flying caramel. Nor will I ever forget how you yelled! Oh, I realize now that it stemmed from you concern for your loving wife. I understand how it must have affected you so to see me in such pain. The tongue lashing that followed full of "What were you thinking" and "Why didn't you just set down the stupid pot" just swelled forth from your lips due to the overwhelming emotions my pain caused you. I endeavor to be worthy of your love. My thanks again,
-Your still scarred Wife
Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me. The microwave never recovered. I think the numbers melted. I had to find a way to salvage the popcorn. With my hubby's help, we were able to lift the pot out of the inch of caramel from which is rested and pour the remainder into the bag. I did let my hubby stir to ensure all the popcorn received as much of the goodness as possible. I had blisters covering my fingers so I slapped on some Band-Aids and a rubber glove just in case, and finished the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. My cousin told me later that my turkey was the best she has EVER eaten. I am still proud. So much for the lowered ego...
Now for the good stuff! Are you ready? Don't let my tale of woe distract from the desire to make the best caramel popcorn on earth. If you do, you will regret it for the remainder of you days. Amen.
6 quarts already popped popcorn
2 Cups light brown sugar
2 Sticks of butter
1/4 Teaspoon salt (of popcorn is pre-salted, if not use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 Cup white Karo syrup
1/4 Teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
Brown paper bags
Pop the popcorn and place it into a brown paper bag. It will sit there until the caramel is ready.
Cook sugar, butter, salt, Karo syrup, and cream of tartar to hard ball stage (240 degrees on a candy thermometer), stirring frequently. When it reached the correct temperature stir in the baking soda. It will foam up, be prepared, keep stirring until its done. Then pour it into the brown bag over all the delish popcorn. Use a LONG HANDLED spoon to stir until evenly coated. Pour out the now golden covered puffs onto 2 large cookie sheets. Spread it out with the spoon, as it is still really hot- I promise! until you have a nice mostly even layer. Into the oven it goes at 150 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Toss twice during baking.
I usually try and let it cool off for about 10 minutes before chowing down, just so I won't burn my mouth. There have been enough burns on my person due to this delightful goodness, now caution is my middle name!