There is something about this caramel popcorn that is incredibly comforting. This is one of those recipes that is creased, greased, and corrected on a very old, yellow lined sheet of paper. The spiderwebbed lettering has faded and there are sections crossed out and rewritten by my mom's familiar hand. Originally, it called for the popcorn to be baked in the oven after spreading with the caramel. This would give it that standard crunch. Instead, Mom always served it hot off of the stove, caramel burning your hands, that chewy, buttery flavor- no hard crunchiness, just soft sugar.
I'm not sure where the recipe came from, I want to say one of my mom's coworkers many years ago- but trust me when I tell you, this is the one. No need to keep looking. Caramelly, sweet, salty, and chewy- which to me, is the perfect caramel popcorn. It keeps well in an airtight container for up to three days- if you can keep it in the house for three days.
There is one little trick: be sure you grease the bowl well. I mean, lather it with at least a tablespoon of butter. This will keep the caramel on the popcorn, not on the bowl!
Here's how it's done:
Grease up your bowl and pop your popcorn. I always pour the popped corn into a separate bowl, then gently lift out the popped corn to leave any kernels behind.
Once you've put all your popcorn into your well-greased bowl, start making the caramel. Put your brown sugar (well-packed), butter, salt, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. If you're anti-corn syrup, brown rice syrup would work equally well.
Turn the heat on to medium and stir all the while.
Once the butter has melted and everything has come together, continue stirring until it comes to a full boil.
Once it boils, stop stirring and let it cook for about five minutes, until it turns a deeper shade of brown and you can't stand to wait one more minute. While it's cooking, measure out your vanilla.
Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully stir in the vanilla- it will spatter.
Using a spatula, pour the hot caramel in a thin stream over the popcorn, tossing all the while. Try to avoid pouring it all down the center, or it will not distribute evenly. This is when you burn the calories for eating the popcorn later.
Thanks to your greased bowl, all the caramel stays on the popcorn- magic! Now just try not to burn your mouth.
Here's the recipe: