The World’s Best Caramel Corn

I always laugh when I see something called “The World’s Best…”. I mean really, who decides that? What was the research, criteria, who got to cast votes, etc.

This morning I made two batches of caramel corn. It’s the time of year when we start making it for parties, family get togethers, tailgates, office break rooms, etc. Last weekend, one of my daughters said, “Mom, my office is asking for our caramel corn. If I come home on Saturday, can we make it? The recipe has been a family favorite for over 30 years and has received rave reviews time and time again. More than once I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you sell it.” Once I was told that it was “better than Topsy’s” which is a popcorn company in Kansas City, so it must be the “World’s Best”, right?

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and my recipe actually came from my best friend from high school. I’m a native of mid-Missouri where my dad and my daughter are both graduates of the University of Missouri. While I was growing up, dad and mom had season tickets to the Mizzou Football games and after I was married, my husband and I also had season tickets with my high school bestie. At the games, my parents had a great parking connection that made for an awesome tailgate set-up that we got to be a part of. It was at one of these tailgates that my best friend showed up with her caramel corn.

A few years later, I learned that the exact same recipe was on the back of the Jolly Time Popcorn bag, which there’s a little family story about this popcorn. My dad and mom owned a motion picture exhibition company. They joined my grandfather in the family business, and like him, my dad had a dry sense of humor. Dad often came home with movie swag that had been sent from a film company and he really racked up when he and mom attended movie conventions. When we would ask him how he got these awesome items, he would always reply, “I entered a contest about “Why I Like Jolly Time Popcorn.” At one of these conventions, he entered a raffle and won a small sailboat, but the story was the same about winning a Jolly Time Popcorn contest. I should probably contact the company with that story and maybe they would send me popcorn for life or something.

I’m happy to share our family caramel corn recipe and perhaps it will become a family favorite for you too. Enjoy.

Caramel Corn

1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1 t. salt

½ t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

6 quarts popped corn

Pop corn and put in a large roasting pan.  Melt butter in a 2 quart saucepan.  Stir in brown sugar, syrup and salt.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Turn the heat down slightly and boil without stirring for 4 ½ to 5 minutes.  Watch very closely, it will easily burn.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.  Gradually pour over popped corn.  Mix well and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  If you keep stirring it for a few minutes, it will break up on it’s own to keep you from having to break it up by hand.  Store in an airtight container.

A few notes: Don’t substitute margarine for the butter. Don’t try to use a cookie sheet, it will burn. I use a disposable foil roasting pan and it works great. Because of the butter, cleanup is a breeze.


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