Monday, June 28, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Take me out to the ballgame...
Take me out to the fair...
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack...
I don't care if we never get back...

I used to enjoy getting boxes of Cracker Jack when I was a little kid - not because I thought it was all that good, but because I wanted the prize.  As I got older, even the prize lost its appeal for me.

I decided to bring back the enjoyment this weekend by mixing up a batch of homemade Cracker Jack.  It is pretty easy and makes for a tasty treat for your summer outings.

Homemade Cracker Jack

4 to 6 quarts of popped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups nuts, chopped

Pop popcorn and place in a large buttered roasting pan.  The amount of corn you pop depends on how heavily you want your popcorn covered by the caramel mixture.  The more popcorn you pop, the lighter the coverage.   We used an air popper to pop the corn, and I've found that 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels makes about 3 quarts of popped popcorn.

I turned on the oven to 200 degrees F and put the roasting pan full of popcorn in while we made the caramel.

On the stovetop, melt the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup, stirring constantly while it is heating.

Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and let it boil for 5 minutes.  Take the popcorn out of the oven in preparation for coating it in caramel.

When the 5 minutes has expired, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and chopped nuts.  We used a mixture of peanuts and almonds.  Make sure it is well blended and then pour it over the popcorn.  It is helpful to have a partner here to help you stir the mixture as you scrape the pan.

Once the popcorn and caramel are well mixed, put the roasting pan back in the oven and increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.  Every 15 minutes for an hour and 15 minutes, remove the roasting pan and stir the mixture to ensure even coating.

Break apart and let it cool before serving or storing.  Enjoy!

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