Salted Caramel Popcorn

Who doesn’t love Cracker Jacks? From the caramel popcorn and crunchy peanuts to the surprise at the bottom of the box, I must admit Cracker Jacks have always been a personal favorite of mine. When I was young I spent a lot of time at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox (and chasing the players cars after the game with my brothers). We always got peanuts in the shell before entering the park from our favorite vendor who always had stacks of paper bags lined up for the taking. By the 7th inning, having already eaten Fenway Franks, we were ready for our Cracker Jacks.
With Spring training in swing and Oscars on tonight, I thought why not celebrate two grand traditions with some old fashioned (and a little updated) Salted Caramel Popcorn! Grab a beer or bubbly and enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons oil (coconut, grapeseed, canola)
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Step 1: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (95 C).

Step 2: In a very large pan(or in 2 batches), heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add popcorn kernels in an even layer, cover and shake over medium high heat until you hear very few kernels popping.  shut off heat and add popcorn to a large mixing bowl.

Step 3: In a medium saucepan over medium heat add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring gently for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour hot mixture over popcorn and mix gently with a spatula until popcorn is evenly coated.

Step 4: Place popcorn on 2 Silpat or parchment paper lined sheets  in a single layer and bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning mixture every 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy! If you would like a saltier caramel, add fleur de sel or your favorite salt when caramel corn is still hot and right out of the oven.

*I love salty, sweet and spicy treats- for  adult cocktail caramel popcorn add about a tablespoon of Sriracha to caramel mixture and add 1 cup of salted peanuts before putting caramel popcorn in the oven. Salted Caramel Popcorn with Sriracha- very adult, very tasty, very addictive!

Tips: If you want to cut down on fat, you can decrease oil when popping corn kernels, just make sure you shake constantly and keep heat at a medium flame.
Dark colored baking sheets will cook the caramel corn faster and caramel will become darker in color and stronger in taste. For a milder flavor and color, stick with light colored baking sheets.

If you plan on adding Sriracha, do so when adding vanilla.
On the left I used a dark steel baking tray and the right a traditional baking tray. Notice how the left tray caramel corn is amber in color and will taste less sweet, the right tray caramel corn is golden and sweeter in flavor.

You might think twenty cups of popcorn is way too much — I promise you, this is the most addictive caramel corn you’ve ever had. Adding Sriracha and peanuts brings this recipe to a whole other level. Caramel corn will keep for at least a week, or so I’m told. Maybe you will have better luck than me with restraint!

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