There's nothing quite as Fall-ish to me as popcorn balls, maybe because one of our neighbors always handed them out for treats on Halloween night. (But they are great year round if you ask me!) Unfortunately, I don't have that recipe, but when I took Home-Ec in 8th grade, we made these Caramel Popcorn Balls and OMG they are amazing! Thankfully I have a mom who saves recipes, because we kept this one.
See - the original copy that she scanned to send to me:(I love how it has a hint at the bottom of how to measure out 3/4 cup - guess I forget what it's like to be around junior high kids!) I've made these several times, and finally figured out the trick. They must be wrapped in waxed paper immediately after being formed, otherwise they will harden and stay that way! For the best, chewy texture ever, they can't sit out to cool without being wrapped. This time, I remembered to wrap them right away and they stayed chewy. However, a new problem arose - they stuck to the waxed paper. I think spraying the waxed paper with cooking spray (butter flavored might be good) before wrapping the popcorn balls might be a good idea, so I've written it into the recipe. Haven't tried it yet, but no one wants to be picking off little pieces of waxed paper to get to the yummy caramel inside! But if they do happen to stick, you can pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to loosen the paper :)
Caramel Popcorn Balls
8 cups of popped corn (1/2 cup unpopped corn)
*I just used 1 package of butterless microwave popcorn and it was exactly 8 cups.
waxed paper squares
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1. Pop corn and place in a large bowl.
2. In a saucepan, combine sugars, corn syrup, water, vinegar, and salt. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan; heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring all of the time. Cook until mixture reaches 260F.
Recognize this picture? I accidentally posted it under Pumpkin Seed Brittle! That's what happens when you make 2 candy recipes in 1 weekend!
3. Reduce heat to low; stir in butter until melted. Pour syrup over corn in a thin stream. Stir until well coated. Cool slightly.
4. While the caramel corn is cooling, cut squares of waxed paper and spray them with cooking spray. (Note: I've never tried this but I think it's a good idea. Even though the caramel corn has so much butter in it, it still sticks to the waxed paper - TRUST ME on this one! haha)
5. Butter your hands. Scoop a small handful of popcorn mixture and form into a 3" ball. Place on a square of waxed paper, twist and turn paper to close. *It is key to seal up the popcorn balls at this point. Do NOT let them cool before you do this or they will harden and turn into rocks. Again, TRUST ME - I have done this before too!
Yield: 16 popcorn balls
Source: My 8th grade Home Economics teacher!