...the best you've ever tasted! I promise! I'm really excited to share this recipe because it is so good. It was passed down to me from my best friend's mom, who got it from her mom - both of whom are fabulous cooks. I've been craving these popcorn balls for about a month, and I finally made a batch today! Joy! I've also made this recipe with kids- they love squishing the gooey popcorn into shapes. :)
1 c sugar
1/3 c light corn syrup
1/3 c water
1/4 c butter
1 tsp salt
~2 quarts of popcorn (1/3 c unpopped kernels)
I like to make my own popcorn on the stove - it's actually not as tricky as I thought it would be. Heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil in a stockpot (I think mine is 6 or 7 quarts) and throw in a few popcorn kernels. When one of them pops, pour in 1/3 cup kernels and cover the pot with the lid. Shake the pot every once and awhile until the kernels have stopped popping - it only takes a minute or two.
To make the caramel sauce, put the sugar, corn syrup, water, butter, and salt into a small sauce pan and boil it until it reaches the "soft ball" stage. To test this, drizzle some of the sauce into a bowl of cold water - if it makes a soft ball, it's ready. If it spreads apart, it needs to boil longer. It has to be gooey enough to get the popcorn to stick together. At this point, stir in the vanilla.
Next, pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn and stir until it seems evenly coated. Let the mixture cool until you're able to touch it without burning your fingers.
Now comes the squishing part! Coat your hands with butter, so the popcorn doesn't stick. Then, start shaping the popcorn into balls, or whatever shape you have in mind. If it doesn't stick together, it may need to cool off a little more. Let the popcorn balls harden on waxed paper or aluminum foil, and wrap them in cellophane. Enjoy!