One of my favorite childhood treats is caramel popcorn. I would always sit on my grandma’s kitchen stool and just enjoy how the whole kitchen smells.
Looking back, it’s not just the treat that makes me happy. I always feel nostalgic reminiscing the memories with Grandma and the bond we share making and eating caramel popcorn. I’d be in the kitchen while the boys play ball outside.
When I was still little, I would just sit there and watch her do it on her own. As I grew a little older, she started letting me help and it always excites me.
By now, I know it’s pretty obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. My caramel popcorn recipe is something my grandma handed over to me. And now, it’s something I’m letting my kids enjoy, too.
Just like my caramel apple recipe, this one is made without corn syrup. If you’ve read that post, I did mention that I try to get rid of corn syrup in my recipes as much as possible.
It applies to our family caramel popcorn recipe, too!
How to Make the Perfect Popcorn on the Stove
Because I learned this recipe from Grandma, I also learned to pop the popcorn on the stove.
As you know, back then microwave ovens weren’t a thing yet. So, the process of this recipe makes use of stove popped popcorn.
One of the things that excited me most making this treat as a child was hearing the corn kernels pop. Grandma taught me how to perfectly pop the corn kernels without burning them. It’s also important not to put in too much corn kernels in the pot or else the popcorn will overflow in the stove top.
This recipe I’m sharing makes 10 cups of popcorn. For this, you need 1/3 cup of corn kernels.
If you need less than 10 cups, use ¼ cup corn kernels instead to give you around 7 cups popcorn. On the other hand, if you’re making this for a larger group, use ½ cup corn kernels so have about 15 cups popcorn.
I read somewhere that a bag of microwave popcorn gives you approximately 4.5 cups of popcorn, so you might want to use that as a reference for how much popcorn you’ll be needing.
Depending on the size of the pot you are using, pour in some oil and make sure the bottom is all covered. For a medium-sized pan, I use 2 tablespoons of oil.
Here’s a good trick to know if your pan is ready to pop those corn kernels perfectly.
Over medium-high heat, test about 5 corn kernels and see if they pop really good. While you’re doing this, make sure you cover your pot.
After the test corn kernels pop, take off the lid and see the results. If you’re happy with how they pop, then take them off the pot and put in the rest of the corn kernels. Again, don’t forget to put the lid back on or your popcorn will be all over the place.
To keep the kernels from burning, slide the pot around gently before they start popping. Once you hear the kernels start to pop, you can stop from sliding the pot around.
Another good trick I learned is to remove the pot from the heat once the popping sound slows down. Because the pot is still hot, the remaining kernels will continue to pop. If you wait until the last pop before you remove it from the heat, chances are your popcorn will start to burn.
If you’ve done this a lot of times, you probably cook popcorn by the feels. You know when to remove it from the heat without really looking at the time.
But if you need a guide on how many minutes you should leave the pot on the stove, the whole popping process should take only 3-4 minutes.
Don’t forget to put salt in the popcorn to taste.
How to Make Add The Caramel To The Popcorn
Now that the popcorn is ready, it’s time for us to make our caramel sauce without corn syrup.
It’s pretty simple, but we won’t be using lemon or vinegar or cream of tartar as we’ve done in the Caramel Apples recipe.
This time, we will be using baking soda because we need a softer texture for this recipe.
Baking soda reacts with brown sugar and creates tiny air bubbles, making the caramel perfect for the popcorn.
The procedure of this caramel is different as well as we need to put in the vanilla and baking soda with perfect timing.
So generally, we melt the butter first and then add in the sugar. Add in the vanilla after 4 minutes and let it boil for another minute, then add in the baking soda.
You will notice that the caramel will foam up once you’ve added the baking soda. This is the chemical reaction we are looking for to create those tiny bubbles for a softer caramel.