Nothing says fall to me like home-made caramels and popcorn balls. When we were little we used to go trick or treating, and we always made sure to go to Merle Eastham’s house. She always gave out her homemade popcorn balls and we loved them! I never knew how to make them until I had Home Ec in school, and Mrs. Pittman taught us how to make them. Thank you Mrs Pittman! The key to making popcorn balls is to avoid overcooking the syrup. You want the popcorn to stick together, but just barely. No one likes a popcorn ball that sticks like glue to their teeth. Bought popcorn balls are terrible! Do not even go there. Popcorn balls should be soft, gooey, and sweet!
- Air Popped Popcorn (1 Cup Unpopped or 2 Batches)
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1/3 Cup Water
- 1/3 Cup Light Karo Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Cup Butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pop 2 batches of popcorn in hot air popper. (Hot Air Popper). Have 2 large bowls handy.
- Pop the corn into 1 large bowl and then transfer the corn with your fingers into the larger bowl, (I use the top of my cake caddy since I don’t have a large enough bowl.), leaving all the hard kernels behind. Trust me, you do not want this in your popcorn balls! Use all the popcorn from the first batch, and then about 1/2 the popcorn from the second batch. Set the remaining popcorn aside in case you need to add more.
- In a saucepan, mix the sugar, water, Karo syrup, salt and butter and cook to soft ball. Do not want to use a candy thermometer here! The actual temperature for soft ball will be too high, and make your popcorn balls too sticky! The way to tell if it is done, is to take a glass of cold water, and add a little bit of your syrup. If it drops to the bottom and stays together, and you can move it around with your finger and it still stays together, then it is done. If it dissolves or does not stay together, cook a little longer and then test again in a fresh cup of cold water. After your mixture starts boiling, it only takes a few minutes for it to reach this stage.
- Once it has reached soft ball, remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
- Pour this mixture over your popcorn shaking and stirring your popcorn as you pour. Add more popcorn if needed till you have the amount of syrup on the popcorn you want, and continue to stir until well mixed.
- Let the mixture cool enough that you won’t burn your hands, and then form into balls. I butter my hands so it doesn’t stick.
- After they have cooled completely, wrap them in plastic wrap.