Make something special for your little goblins this Halloween! Popcorn balls were always around at Halloween when we were kids. Mom made them most every Halloween. They were always in abundance at the annual carnival at our school and when we went out trick-or-treating it wasn’t uncommon to find these slightly salty and sweet treats wrapped up and handed out by one or two very special neighbors.
Popcorn balls are a simple concoction and really not difficult to make. As with making any candy a heavy pan, a sturdy wooden spoon and a candy thermometer are keys to success. Keep in mind, if it’s humid day the candy will be a bit sticky.
To make popcorn balls, you’ll start with about 3 quarts of unsalted popped popcorn. Making popcorn the “old-fashion” way by popping the kernels on your stovetop takes about 10 minutes. It’s super simple.
This recipe makes 6 large popcorn balls, or 10 smaller ones. The candy will set and become stiff as it cools, so if you need more popcorn balls it’s best to make the candy coating one batch at a time.
A wonderful old-fashioned treat for the kids, both young and old!
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
In a large, heavy stockpot, preferably with a wide-bottom, heat the oil over medium-high until the oil begins to shimmer. Toss in about 3-4 kernels. Once they pop, add the remaining kernels and remove from the heat for about 30 seconds.
Return the popcorn to the heat and partially cover the pan, allowing the steam to escape but keeping the popcorn from popping out. Cook over medium-high heat until the kernels begin to pop. Keeping the pan partially covered, shake to keep the kernels moving and prevent the popcorn from scorching. Once the popping slows, remove from the heat and let the pan sit for a minute or two allowing any unpopped kernels to finish popping.
Using your hands, gently scoop the popped corn into a large mixing bowl, removing any unpopped kernels. In a heavy saucepan, add the corn syrup, the water, sugar, butter, kosher salt and cider vinegar.
Cook over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise the heat to medium. Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and set it for soft crack or 270 degrees.
Cook, stirring occasionally until the candy reaches 270 degrees.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour about half the candy mixture over the popped corn, stirring with a large wooden spoon. Add the remaining candy mixture and stir to coat as thoroughly as possible.
Using either butter or a cooking spray, coat your hands. Scoop up a handful of candy coated popcorn and quickly press into a ball. Place the popcorn balls onto parchment paper to cool completely. As the candy on the popcorn cools completely it will set to a soft crack.
A fun and delicious Halloween project!