Thursday, 13 August 2009

Caramel Corn

Eric Ravilious

Inside or Outside?
It is the dilemma of all summer entertaining in England.

It's not enough to listen to the weather report, or even to scan the early morning sky, for the weather is nothing if not changeable.

Barbeques and picnics can be glorious, but only if weather conditions are just right. In my mind -- and frankly, that's the only place this idyllic scene has taken place -- children play croquet under a crisp, cloudless sky while parents sip champagne and eat strawberries under a bower of roses. In reality, I've planned many a picnic which ended up with too many people huddled around my kitchen table. We've also toughed out many an evening barbeque -- with all of the guests begging for jackets and jumpers.

Last Friday, my youngest daughter had six friends over for a sleepover party. Unlike me, who cares only for the food when it comes to party planning, she fretted over the food and the entertainment. After considerable cogitation, she drew up two plans: one for inside, and one for outside. If the weather was warm and dry, we would have a barbeque. If the weather was cold and wet, we would make homemade pizza.

Only one detail remained consistent: no matter what the weather, we would have homemade caramel corn.

When I got married, my mother made me a cookbook of family recipes. Under the Miscellaneous section, there are kid-pleasing recipes for pancakes, hot fudge sauce, coffee can ice cream, Chex party mix and pull later taffy. There is also a recipe for microwave caramel corn: a bit of late 1970s history, from the days when microwaves were a great novelty. I only remember to make it every few years, but when I do, I'm always delighted because it is DELICIOUS and easy and fun to make with children.

As summer winds down, and everyone gears up for the rush rush rush of the school year routine, it is a worthy afternoon project . . . and will, at least, lend some novelty to another afternoon spent watching DVDs. If you do let children have a go, make sure that you reserve a bag of this good stuff for yourself. It makes a lot, but a small gathering of children can snarf it down before the hapless adult has managed to clean up the kitchen.

Caramel Corn

Special Equipment: You will need a large paper bag and a microwave for this recipe.

Two batches of popcorn

8 ounces packed light brown sugar
4 ounces butter
2 ounces honey or white Karo syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt


First, a few words about popcorn: don’t even think of using microwave popcorn. It is nasty and full of chemicals. You need to make popcorn the old-fashioned way, which is really very easy. You will need a large pot with a lid and handles on the side (so you can hold it to shake it). I use my spaghetti/soup pot, but when I was a child we had a special seasoned pot just for popcorn. On medium to medium-high heat, heat 2-3 tablespoons of a light vegetable oil (like sunflower, canola, etc). Then add your popcorn – I think that 2/3s of a cup is about right. Make sure to shake your pan back and forth, so you don’t burn the popcorn, and take it off the heat when it has almost stopped popping. Don’t forget to have a large bowl at the ready!

After you have made two batches of popcorn, using this method and quantity, pour all of your popcorn in a paper bag.

Next, you will make the caramel.
Place the brown sugar, butter and syrup in a large glass measuring cup or bowl. (Check picture for size. A 16 oz measuring cup is not big enough.) Microwave this mixture for approximately 1 ½ minutes – or until butter has completely melted. Then, stir until smooth, with all of the ingredients fully incorporated.

Here is the fun science experiment part: Add the vanilla, baking soda and salt and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. The baking soda will activate and the mixture will foam up.

Pour the syrup over the popcorn, and stir well with a long wooden spoon. Then, fold the bag down tightly. The last step is to heat the popcorn in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. (The recipe says 3, but I thought that 2 was plenty! You don’t want to burn it.)

Remove to a large bowl. The popcorn will be hot and sticky at first, but when it cools it will become crisp. If the weather is humid, store the popcorn in Ziploc bags as soon as it cools.

This is delicious, addictive stuff! Make sure to have some when it is warm – although don’t be too hasty and burn your tongue.

As for the party, we decided to play it conservatively and go with the "Inside" plan: pizza, dancing and movies. (As luck would have it, the day ended up being warm and dry.) The girls ended up playing in the creek, which hadn't been part of any plan . . . but that's just how parties go.

It's just as well that I had a lot of "tester" bites when I was making the caramel corn, because there weren't any leftovers . . . not even for the vacuum cleaner.

So now, it's almost Friday again and I'm planning for six more friends who are coming to visit. And I'm wondering: Will we be eating inside or outside? (And should I make more caramel corn? Because it's a really good snack for people who spend a lot of their time at computers.)


steven said...

hi bee, this looks really good!! i wonder if i throw this recipe towards my children if they'll grab it and go with it?!! perhaps i'll be the lucky recipient!! thanks for posting this and have a sweet day. steven

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Thanks for a great post and for the carmel corn recipe! I hope your week-end and the visit form your six friends will be a good one.
Tracy :)

willow said...

Now this certainly does bring back memories, Bee. I used to make this exactly carmel corn recipe for my kids ALL the time. Haven't made it in ages. Sounds good right now!

We've had such a mild summer up until this week, and have been able to eat out on the patio many evenings. It's been wonderful.

Elizabeth said...

Planning a party is maybe the best bit --other than dissecting it afterwards.....
I think I will try your recipe --sounds delicious.

JC said...

I don't think I could ever try that recipe ... being the terrible cool that I am but I do remember eating Cracker Jacks as a kid.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Yes, I think you'd better make some more! This looks delicious. I must try it...thanks for the recipe!

I am always so entertained by the weather forecasts in Britain. When they are over, I turn to my husband and ask..."so, what did he say"?? It's always every sort of weather imaginable as a possibility for the day.

Meri said...

Wow - I love caramel corn, so I'm going to try this recipe. Baking soda (soda, right, not powder)! Who would have guessed.

Sarah Laurence said...

Forget about the kids; I'm coming for a sleepover! I wish. That opening painting reminds me of our pub lunch. Thanks for bringing sweetness to a sour day. Sunshine is a state of mind.

Star said...

Well, Friday has turned out to be a wonderful day, perfect for outdoors so I guess you are a happy bunny today? Your recipe looks delicious.
Blessings, Star

Cyndy said...

Oh, the caramel corn looks yummy! We have an old popcorn machine that still works well (one of the few things left with our theatre). I wonder if I make a batch without the buttered salt if that would work? My husband would want to add nuts.

I definitely think you should make more for BC ~ served with a batch that is plain and salty. Sweet & Salt. Yum.

I am sure all will work well no matter what you plan. The crowd you have coming will be more than flexible, I am sure. Besides, when we set up too many expectations, that is when we are most disappointed, no? Just go with the flow, as you do with your beautiful words and it will be wonderful!

Have a GREAT weekend!

kristina said...

I had never heard of caramel corn, but it does sound delicious! I'm so excited about this weekend and looking forward to meeting you!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Yay for Carmel Corn! I get a craving for it every now and then, but I've never tried to make it. I am going to try this for sure. Thanks for sharing such a great "miscellaneous" recipe. And thumbs up to your mom for her thoughtfulness in putting that family recipe book together. What a great gift for a bride!

larkspur said...

Bee, love the list...and the caramel corn. Yum!

Margaret Gosden said...

The weather is a bit like that here these days! The carmel corn recipe looks good - would it be good for apples, too, I wonder.

♥ Braja said...


The Bug said...

Wow that sounds yummy! Like Cyndy's hubby I would want to add nuts...

ArtSparker said...

A delicious post, I must remember to sop by if I am in your neighborhood. That is quite a lovely photo of the golden froth.

herhimnbryn said...

As soon as I came to this post, I thought ah ha, a painting by Eric R. I do enjoy his work, so very 'English'.

The pepcorn recipe sounds divine. I can feel my teeth rotting at the mere thought of it! It is now saved for summer. Thankyou.

Celeste Maia said...

You are giving me such a good idea! Tomorrow evening I have four of my friends - whose husbands, like mine are away travelling - for dinner. I cant think of a better program than sitting in the garden sharing stories. Chit chat in the warm summer dark, munching caramel corn.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Your recipe sounds delish, but I am too busy being super jealous of the six visitors who get to hang out with you at Bloggy camp to think about cooking. Pout, pout.

With our crazy Pacific NW weather, we have to do the contingency plan thing all summer long. So glad it turned out nice enough for your girls to play outside.

Lucy said...

Once at my university film club, someone had the bright idea of making a big batch of popcorn to share. Good one, but she made a caramel coating that was impossibly sticky, so we all ended up in a right mess during the film - I can't remember what it was, probably something frightfully serious to which sticky popcorn was inappropriate. I like the idea of this one as drying crisp. I do have a pack of microwave popcorn, 'American style' but your warning discourages me.

Eating outside is somehow always more relaxed than in, but not if it's cold and wet!

Bee said...

Thanks to everyone who has commented here. I didn't get around to making caramel corn again this weekend . . . although I did make LOTS of other things. My lovely blog friends, all keen photographers with whopping huge Nikons, took pictures of it all.

I would just like to add about the caramel corn: it doesn't stick to your teeth!

Merisi said...

Bee, that recipe makes my day! I will surprise my children at the next movie pary with these caramel tooth busters. ;-)

Are you using vanilla extract (liquid - that's what we'd use in the States) or vanilla sugar?

The restaurant here face that indoor-outdoor dilemma too (we don't have a garden). I feel sorry for them when one of those naughty rainshowers strikes for a few minutes and everything's wet afterwards. Lots of extra work for our pleasure to enjoy a meal outdoors!

Anne said...

Oh dear. I need more treats in the house like I need a hole in the head, but it's a safe bet that I will be making some of this sooner rather than later. Yum!

Bee said...

Merisi - Yes, you need a bit of vanilla extract for the recipe. Please let me know if you make it.

As for summer showers, we just got back from the Lake District -- and all of the lovely outside tables were soaking wet, unfortunately.

Anne - You will love this. Perfect for a stay-at-home movie date . . .

Lisa said...

Oh my goodness that looks delicious!