Definitely Treat!! I have very fond memories of trick or treating when I was a kid. Remember when people gave out homemade treats? I do, and my favorite treat was popcorn balls. My grandma R’s neighbor, a lovely lady named Clara made popcorn balls every year for Halloween. Her house was one of the first houses that we visited. She would have a big basket filled with these sticky, chewy, sweet balls of gooey goodness. More often than not, we ate the popcorn balls while we were pounding the pavement going to as many houses as we possibly could, filling our pillowcases almost to the top. Oh no, we didn’t have those plastic molded jack-o-lanterns, we were hardcore.
The thing about getting all of that candy that I don’t remember for some reason is that I never really ate that much of my candy. If I did, it was sweet tarts, Tootsie rolls, smarties, and dum dum suckers. Oh sure, I got plenty of candy bars and chocolate treats, but I was always conned out of them. One of my older brothers always made these deals (that seemed like I’d be crazy to pass it up) with me to trade my peanut butter cups and candy bars for bubble gum and sweet tarts.
Several years back, Brian worked with a lady that would bring popcorn balls in for everyone, around this time of year. Brian is a smart guy, he liked them so much that he asked her for the recipe. She jotted it down on a small scrap of paper and that is what I use every year to make these yummy treats. I don’t hand them out for trick or treaters, but I do make several batches and hand them out to family and friends. I also bring them to get togethers during the fall and it never fails that someone will reminisce about them. Now, they are a tradition again and I’m so happy to pass this recipe along to you.
16 cups of popped popcorn -or- 4 bags of microwave popcorn (the regular size bag, which is I think 3.5 oz.)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter ( has to be butter, not margarine or a spread)
1 teaspoon vanilla
In medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, add sugar, water, corn syrup, and butter. Bring to boil and let boil on medium to medium low heat until it reaches “soft ball” stage on candy thermometer. ( candy thermometers can be found at any department store or kitchen store) It needs to continue to cook at the soft ball stage for several minutes. Do not stir this mixture, just let it keep boiling, making sure that the temperature on the thermometer stays constant.
(during this time, I used to stand and stare at the mixture while it was boiling away. Now, I know that I can let it boil away while I do other things in the kitchen, always keeping an eye on the mixture.)
Another way to check or know just when the syrup mixture is ready is to take a glass of cold water, dip a clean spoon into the boiling mixture and place a drop of the mixture into the cold water. If it forms a little ball as it is dropped, it is ready. If it disperses too quickly, it’s not ready.
After the boiled mixture is ready, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Step back slightly and do not stir the vanilla in. It will bubble violently at first. Immediately take this mixture to the large container of popcorn, pour over and stir. Keep stirring until mixture has coated all of the popcorn. The stirring will also cool the popcorn mixture enough to be handled and shaped.
After popcorn is well coated and cooled slightly, spray hands with Pam cooking spray and start molding the popcorn balls by taking a handful of popcorn and pressing firmly with both hands. If you do not like to have your hands get messy, use gloves.
Place formed popcorn balls on wax paper lined trays and let cool. Once cool, place in plastic baggies. This recipe makes between 15 and 18 popcorn balls.