I took that photo on my patio yesterday morning before tucking into what looks suspiciously like a bowl of Cracker Jack. It's not quite the Cracker Jack I remember but it's something far, far better.
I had two wildly inconvenient dental procedures last month and after my last one, my dentist warned me not to eat popcorn until my gums healed. Not a problem because I never eat popcorn. I never eat it that is until a dentist tells me not to.
The surest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do something. My dentist's warning about popcorn gave rise to something deep inside of me and I was seized with a craving for not just popcorn but a very special kind of popcorn and something I hadn't eaten since I was around 12.
I became consumed with a craving for Cracker Jack so profound I lack words to describe it accurately. It kept me awake at night and when I couldn't stand it any longer I gave in and sped off to the grocery store. To my profound horror, Publix doesn't sell the stuff and if Publix doesn't sell it it may as well not exist.
Undaunted, I came home and turned to the internet for caramel corn recipes. As a point of order; that word, caramel, is pronounced kar-mel. Pronouncing it with the second A marks you as someone from the west coast. The horror!
Anyhow, I adapted a recipe I found on Recipes.com and I cranked out a king's ransom in Cracker Jack Hack. Let's look at my glorious effort again:
Here's what to do.
That seems really cut and dry but believe me, this is one of the messiest things I've ever made in my life. I took some liberties with the original recipe by adding more salt and a lot of peanuts. I think the added salt makes the sweetness less cloying and the peanuts are what make Cracker Jack Cracker Jack.
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 quarts popped popcorn
- A mess of peanuts
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place popcorn in a very large bowl.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.
Place in two large shallow baking dishes and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.
Craving sated, I can now concentrate on concealing the evidence from my dentist at my follow up appointment this week.
As fantastic as this stuff is, I made enough that I ate my fill on the first day and now I have great bags of the stuff sitting around. The next time I make this I'll split the recipe in half. As a side note, the caramel it makes is fantastic in its own right. It cools to the consistency and taste of a Sugar Daddy, another old friend from childhood. As wonderful as this fix was, it was still missing one key element.
Alas, I had no cheap ring or booklet of cheesey tattoos with which to while away my sugar-fueled afternoon.