3 quarts unsalted popped corn*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Food dye (your favorite color), 5 to 6 drops (optional)**
* Remember to remove any un-popped popcorn kernels.
** Add any color you desire and as much as you like. If you are using liquid coloring, it takes a bit more to make a bright color. Paste coloring is more concentrated.
Popcorn can be air popped to reduce fat or cooked in oil (your choice). Cooking in oil will actually help the caramel corn separate easier to reduce clumping.
Place popped corn in a large bowl or pan (make sure you remove ALL the uncooked popcorn kernels).
In a saucepan over medium heat, add sugar, corn syrup, water, butter, and salt. Cook until reaches a temperature of 270 degrees F. on your Cooking Thermometer. If you do not have a cooking thermometer, drop a small amount of sugar syrup into very cold water - it will solidify but will separates into hard brittle threads when done. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, stirring only enough to combine. If you choose to use some food dye or tint, add it now.
This is the type of cooking thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right.
Pour hot syrup over popcorn a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until all popcorn is coated. Use a non-stick cooking spray on the spoon to help prevent the corn from sticking to the spoon. Let popcorn cool slightly, until you can handle it easily (if you let the popcorn cool just a minute or two they will also into balls better).
Using well buttered hands and working quickly, shape about 1 cup popcorn into a ball (by squeezing between both hands). Place popcorn ball onto waxed paper to let cool. Repeat with remaining popcorn. NOTE: Mixture will be hot so be careful!
Let popcorn balls cool completely. Wrap each individual ball in plastic wrap.
Store at room temperature.
Makes many servings.