COOK’S CORNER: Popcorn gets treat makeover

Published 1:01 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2007

By Staff
I hope that you’ve chosen a great pumpkin pie recipe from those printed in this space last week. Pumpkin is plentiful right now and it’s the perfect time to go ahead and plan for those Thanksgiving pies while you aren’t rushed to get them in the oven.
This week I’m giving you some recipes for something just a little different. Since Halloween is just a few weeks away, I got to thinking about some Halloween recipes that I could pass along to you for the upcoming holiday.
I tried to think of some things that were common during my childhood and I realized I couldn’t think that far back. Just kidding. I really can think back to my childhood since I find myself reverting to my childhood quite frequently these days.
I remember making popcorn balls as a child and loving every minute of it. I really like popcorn and working in the kitchen with gooey stuff was thrill for me as a child. I can remember, however, that it took much longer to get to the making of the balls a little longer than it will for you today. Thanks to microwave popcorn, you can have your popcorn popped and ready to form into balls in just a few minutes. When I was a child, we had to get the oil hot in the bottom of the pot before adding the corn and waiting for what seemed like forever to get it all popped. And the shaking. My arms would be tired before all of the kernels had exploded into their beautiful whiteness. But it was all worth the work and the wait.
Now, on to the good stuff. There are several different kinds of popcorn balls that can be prepared. I’ll pass along a few of the different recipes I have found for this wonderful treat. You’re bound to find one recipe that will help you remember a childhood.
Even though the popcorn part is easier these days, these treats do take a little extra time and effort. But, if you have children in your house, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll be making a treat they will enjoy and you’ll also be making memories for them.
Just to get you started in the right direction there is a good rule of thumb to measure popcorn by if you are using the old-fashioned kind instead of the microwave kind. In a recipe calling for the old-fashioned stovetop popcorn, one-half cup of corn kernels will equal about four quarts of popped corn. Usually a typical bag of microwave popcorn will yield about one and a half to two quarts of popped corn. You can use either method to suit your needs and tastes. Most of the recipes here would be better if you started with plain, unbuttered versions of popcorn. However, nothing says you can’t experiment!
Classic Popcorn Balls
2 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine molasses, sugar, water, vinegar and butter. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until the mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage). Add baking soda and stir well. Remove from heat and immediately pour over popcorn, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until well coated. When cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 3-in. balls, dipping hands in cool water to prevent the syrup from sticking.
If you’re looking for something with a little more zip and zing, you may be interested in this next recipe. I love caramel corn and these popcorn balls sound mighty tasty to me.
Caramel Popcorn Balls
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a 4 quart saucepan, and heat over high heat. When oil is hot, add 1/2 cup of popping corn. Keep pan moving constantly. When corn stops popping, remove from heat. Place popped corn in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all corn has been popped. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer inserted, combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Stir well and bring to boiling over medium heat. Stir in condensed milk; simmer, stirring constantly, until thermometer reads 238 degrees. Stir in vanilla.
Pour caramel over popped corn and stir to coat. Butter hands lightly; shape popcorn into balls about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
Finally, this next recipe is one the kids will love and the adults will find enjoyable as well. I love marshmallows so this one is a good one for me too.
Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
6 tablespoons butter
5 cups miniature marshmallows
Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Set aside. Add vegetable oil to a 4 quart saucepan, and heat over high heat. When oil is hot, add popping corn. Keep pan moving constantly. When corn stops popping, remove from heat. Put popcorn in prepared pan. Melt butter In a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in marshmallows and cook until melted, stirring constantly. Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn and mix with spoon to coat evenly. Let mixture cool slightly. Smear butter on your hands or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Mix popcorn with your hands so that it is evenly coated. Form popcorn into 8 balls.
I hope that these recipes will give you a chance to bring back some old memories, create some new memories for your children and provide your family with wonderful, and slightly healthier, treats this Halloween.
I plan to start working on some Thanksgiving recipes soon and I’ll be looking for some great ideas and tips from you. If you have a favorite Thanksgiving recipe I’d like to hear from you. Include anything you’d like from main dishes, side dishes and desserts.
Recipes, tips, ideas for decorating tables and buffets would all be welcome as we prepare for the upcoming holiday season. You can send them to me through regular mail at The Brewton Standard, P.O. Box 887, Brewton, AL 36427; give me a call at 867-4876; or drop me a line at
It’s never to early to plan ahead.
Until next week, happy cooking!

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