Every now and then it’s fun to stop for a moment and think of some favorite memories of childhood. One of my favorite memories as a child was watching my mom make easy stove-top caramel popcorn (GF).
As far back as I can remember, my Mom has been making this caramel popcorn. She said that she found the recipe in a magazine years ago and it is her favorite recipe, (and mine), for caramel popcorn. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn, along with the cooking caramel sauce on the stove, is one of my favorite childhood memories.
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This stuff is so delicious that in our family, the recipe has been handed down through the generations. My mother still makes this yummy caramel popcorn for many of holidays or family gatherings and there is seldom any leftover.
Once you start eating it… well… let’s just say… you’d better loosen your belt because this stuff is unbelievably
addictive, I mean… wonderfully satisfying! You will certainly not be begging for more, Ummm… disappointed!
It all starts with popping 1/2 – 3/4 cup of popcorn, (for more caramel coverage use 1/2 cup).
A hot air popcorn popper actually works the best if you have access to one but you can use any popcorn you like.
See that enamel dishpan? That is a good old-fashioned, enamelware dishpan. It has been in our family for well over 70 years.
Simply seeing that pan reminds me of my childhood. My mom still uses it, (as you can see in the pic), on a regular basis. Through the years that pan has been used for a wide variety of things.
Place your popped popcorn in a large metal pan/bowl. *DO NOT USE PLASTIC! When you pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn the hot caramel may melt the plastic if it comes into contact with it.
Once you have the popcorn ready it’s time to make the caramel sauce.
The caramel sauce is a combination of only 4 ingredients: sugar + butter + white corn syrup + vanilla.
In a medium saucepan combine 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 1 whole stick butter + 1/2 cup white corn syrup. (*Do not add the vanilla until after the sauce is finished. If you add it during the cooking process the vanilla will “cook out” of the sauce and it will not be as flavorful.)
Times may vary!
Cook on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on if you are using a gas stove or electric range. For the first few minutes, you only need to stir the sauce occasionally.
During this first few minutes get a glass and fill it with 1/2 cup of cool water. I will explain in a second what this is for.
As the sauce continues to cook it will start to bubble and you will notice that it starts changing colors: from a yellowish color to a light caramel color. Once the color starts changing you will need to stir it constantly. It will only take a matter of 3 – 4 minutes for the sauce to go from the light caramel color to a medium caramel color.
If you use a candy thermometer – the sauce is ready when it reaches 300 degrees F. If you do not have a candy thermometer you can check using the following method:
Take a glass filled with about 1/2 cup cool water in it. Now take a spoon and drop a small glob, (about 1/2 tsp.) of caramel sauce into the cool water. If after a few seconds the glob turns hard your sauce is ready. If the glob stays soft the sauce needs to cook for another minute or two.
Keep checking this way until the glob of caramel is firm. Once the sauce has reached this stage you know that is it ready.
If you under-cook the sauce, the caramel popcorn will be chewing and sticky. If you over-cook the sauce it will taste scorched.
After you make a few batches of this caramel popcorn, you will quickly become a pro at telling when the sauce is ready. Once the sauce is ready, remove it from the heat.
Now add 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the hot caramel sauce and stir until blended well. ***Please note that when adding the vanilla to the hot caramel sauce the mixture will bubble and steam until it is fully blended in. Be careful not to stand directly over the pan during this process.
Cover the popcorn!
Immediately, pour the hot caramel mixture over the popped popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon or metal spoon. Be careful not to get the hot caramel sauce on your skin because it may burn you. Work quickly because the caramel sauce will cool quickly.
My family loves this recipe. It's so easy to make and is perfect for the holidays.
- 1/2 cup white corn syrup
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick salted butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 quarts popped popcorn
- In a medium saucepan combine sugar, butter, and white corn syrup. Cook on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on if you are using a gas stove or an electric range. For the first few minutes, you only need to stir the sauce occasionally.
- As the sauce continues to cook it will start to bubble and you will notice that it starts changing colors: from a yellowish color to a light caramel color. Once the color starts changing you will need to stir it constantly. It will only take a matter of 3 - 4 minutes for the sauce to go from a light caramel color to a medium caramel color. If you use a candy thermometer - the sauce is ready when it reaches 300 degrees F. If you do not have a candy thermometer you can check using the following method: Fill a glass with 1/2 cup of water. Scoop a small spoonful of syrupy mixture into the water (about 1/2 tsp.) If after a few seconds, the glob turns hard, your sauce is ready. If the glob stays soft the sauce needs to cook for another minute or two.
- Add vanilla, (stand back when adding because it will steam). Pour mixture over popped popcorn, and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon. Add nuts and candies if desired.
- Store in a container with a tight lid.
Doesn’t that look delicious???? I wish I could give you a bite!
All of the ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free so it is a great snack to take to parties, particularly if some of the guests are gluten intolerant.
When you are stirring the caramel sauce into the popcorn, you can also add chopped nuts, sprinkles, candies, chopped cookie pieces, etc… Just let your imagination go wild and see what combinations you can come up with.
NOTE: Be careful when adding extra ingredients such as candied nuts, candies, sprinkles, etc… because these additions may or may not be gluten-free so be sure to check before adding them.
I really hope that you enjoy this recipe because it truly is a favorite of mine.
What is your favorite popcorn?
More great ideas!