Mom’s Caramel Popcorn

by Erin on September 14, 2008

This is my mom’s recipe, and it was her mother’s recipe. In fact, when my mom gave me this recipe she was reading off of the original that she copied from my grandma and in the ingredients it read, “butter, the size of an egg.” Funny, huh? I love making my favorite family recipes. This has so many fun memories attached to it – I love this recipe. Honestly, nothing beats real homemade caramel. It is just heaven!

This last time I boiled my caramel until it just barely reached 245° F and I thought it was perfect, but I wouldn’t want it any firmer. (Anywhere between 243° F and 245° F would work probably, but like I mentioned in the instructions, use the icewater test too.) This is firm enough to not be totally messy and gooey, but it’s soft enough to be chewy. I don’t like having to break off brittle pieces of crunchy caramel popcorn; I prefer it to be soft enough so that it’s still pliable. However, it can still settle a bit when you put it into a bowl, so you may need to break it up a little with a knife so that you can take pieces of it easily. If you prefer it to be even softer, you can check it at a lower temperature. It’s all a matter of personal preference, really.
I pop 1 cup of popcorn kernels, which makes approximately 5 ½ quarts. Usually popcorn poppers will pop ½ cup of kernels per batch.
This is truly easy; the directions are long because I add a lot of little tips and extra instructions. But don’t be alarmed – it’s quite simple!


Mom’s Caramel Popcorn – the real deal
submitted by Erin

5-6 quarts popcorn (5 for adults, 6 for children; 1 cup of kernels is about right)
2 cups brown sugar
1 c. Roger’s golden corn syrup
1 c. heavy whipping cream (1/2 pint)
about 4 ½ T butter
2 tsp vanilla 

Pop popcorn using a hot air electric popcorn popper. Gently shake the popped popcorn in the bowl a little and then scoop out the popcorn with your hands, leaving the heavy unpopped kernels at the bottom. (Or, put into a garbage bag and shake so that the unpopped and heavy kernels settle to the bottom. Use the top popcorn for the recipe.)
First, melt butter in pan and up the sides, add corn syrup and cream, then carefully pour the sugar in the middle. (When making candy, do not let the sugar go up along the pan edges.) Near the end, add the vanilla. Using a candy thermometer, boil to 243-245° F (adjust to a lower temperature for high altitude). (Usually you boil it to the ‘soft ball’ stage, but I like it just a bit firmer than that. 245° F is the highest you would want to go – you might prefer it softer/gooier that me.) You may stir occasionally.
**If you don’t have a candy thermometer, get a glass of ice water and spoon a small amount of the caramel into the ice water and observe how quickly and how much it firms up. For me, I look for the caramel to either form a semi-firm ball, or it will firm up upon hitting the cold water in the shape of the drizzled stream (but it will still be quite soft and pliable), and will not readily adhere itself into a ball. (‘Soft ball’ stage= when placed on counter the caramel ball will slowly flatten a little.) I ALWAYS test out my caramel in ice water in addition to watching the thermometer. I get much better success when I rely on two methods instead of just one. In fact, I put more emphasis on the ice-water test than the temperature. 245° F just happened to be the point when I was satisfied with the ice-water test.
Take off heat immediately because the caramel will reach the hard ball stage quickly. Pour over popcorn and nuts (if desired). Do not scrape the pan because candy will turn to sugar if scraped. (This recipe has enough corn syrup that it will probably be okay, though.)
Form into balls with buttered hands or spread on a greased cookie sheet.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mindy September 14, 2008 at 9:44 pm

I LOVE this popcorn. It reminds me of Christmas and making all the yummy treats with mom. :)


2 Anonymous September 18, 2008 at 10:49 am

Hey sis- that popcorn makes me think of Christmas and being together as a family! I have a lot of great memories watching movies and playing games while stuffing ourselves full of that popcorn. It’s a wonder any of us fit in our clothes! Love you Erin,


3 Barry and Rochelle October 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Have you ever made this with just Light Karo Syrup? or it has to be Roger's Golden… I don't even know where to find that…


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