For Father's Day (or any other holiday, really), I always try to find ways to give homemade gifts. This year, my husband had a great idea for our dads. Homemade Caramel Popcorn! They both love it and you can put it in all sorts of fun containers. We went with simple, clear canisters...much more manly, I thought.
Since caramel popcorn is normally seasonal (Halloween - Christmas) it's hard to find any that's fresh and not really expensive. After doing some research, I found a great recipe. It's simple (nearly foolproof, really) which is good considering I've had some caramel-making disasters in my past. Plus, most of the ingredients are pantry staples, so you can make it all year! The bonus is that this caramel corn tastes exactly like the gourmet, super-pricey kind you can find in specialty shops around the holidays.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
Non-stick Cooking spray
12 C. popcorn (I used the microwavable kind - it's just about 2 bags worth of popcorn)
2 C. peanuts (optional)
1 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. corn syrup (light or dark)
1/2 C. (1 stick) of butter
1/2 tsp. salt, plus a pinch
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray a large shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Combine popcorn and nuts (if using) and set aside.
In a heavy 2 quart sauce pan mix brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Stir constantly and bring to a boil over medium heat. Without stirring, boil for 5 minutes. Remove sauce pan from eat, stir in vanilla and baking soda.
Pour the syrup over popcorn (and nuts), making sure to coat each piece. The caramel hardness pretty fast, so make sure to move quickly as you pour and mix!
Bake in 250 degree oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, let cool, and break popcorn apart.
Package in cute containers to give away as gifts - or just eat it all yourself...hey, I don't judge!