ruthie’s ought-to-be-famous absolutely fabulous caramel corn
We visited a number of ruins while on our trip to Sedona, Arizona. We’ve been to each of them before, at least once, but each time we learn a little something new, and each time at various points, we’ll look over at each other and shake our heads in awe. It’s simply incredible – to walk amongst the stacked walls and scattered rocks where they had walked, farmed and hunted, prepared their food and ate their meals, had their babies, played and danced, wove from cotton they’d planted, carved tools from stone and bone, traded, worshipped…and then, around 1400 AD, they left…and no one can say to where, or why. It leaves us rather awestruck and feeling like we should whisper amongst these ruins. And we do.
These are the curved stone tools (metates) in which the women (primarily) and children would grind their grains.
These people domesticated corn, digging irrigation ditches to bring water to their gardens, carving stone tools to hoe between the rows. Corn was absolutely central to these ancient Americans’ existence. With that on my mind, I turn my own attention to working with corn. But this is child’s play really, nothing serious about it. Well, just one. I’m not one prone to addiction, but this is one thing that comes seriously close to having me in its clutches. It’s my mother’s caramel corn and for years now it’s been showing up at our family Christmas. One or two or more of us will independently prepare it, pack in it tins or cellophane bags and gift one another with it. (We always hope we get one back.) It rarely lasts a day. I’m just sayin’…
Ruthie’s Ought-To-Be-Famous Absolutely Fabulous Caramel Corn
- 6 quarts popped corn (i.e. 24 cups)
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1½ teaspoons salt (if using salted butter, reduce to 1 teaspoon)
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
to be added later:
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250°F. Place popped corn into a large 4-inch-deep buttered baking pan or roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in the oven as you prepare the caramel sauce.
In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt. Measure out the baking soda and have it ready but don’t add at this time.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. The caramel will begin to boil rapidly. Continue cooking and stirring until the bubbly mixture reaches 250° to 260° F as registered on a candy thermometer.
Remove the popcorn from the oven and have it on the counter nearby. Remove the pan from the stove. Add the baking soda to the caramel sauce, stirring quickly and thoroughly. (It will froth up and fill the pan and look like this.)
Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn, and promptly stir gently until well-covered.
Reduce oven temperature to 225° F and cook for 1 hour, stirring two or three times during baking.
You may find it helpful to have a very clean countertop available. When the caramel corn comes out of the oven, quickly remove it from its pan and spread it to cool on the clean countertop or on a large cutting board. As soon as it’s cooled just enough to handle, gently separate the pieces of popped corn from one another.
Cool completely and store tightly wrapped. (That’s actually a silly bit of instruction. The last thing you’ll have to worry about with this caramel corn is its “keeping ability.” )
An an option you might try adding Spanish peanuts to the popped corn, prior to pouring on the caramel sauce. About a cup (or so) will do.
I’m going to be making several batches of this in the next couple weeks and intend to “play” with it some. If something wondrous turns up, I’ll be sure to let you know.