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.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Lightly butter or use non-stick cooking spray in a large roasting pan.
Place the popped popcorn and peanuts in the prepared roasting pan. Place in the oven while the Caramel Sauce is cooking.
Prepare Caramel Sauce:
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and molasses.
Stir until smooth and melted. Increase heat to medium, stirring constantly until the caramel sauce begins to boil.
Set a timer to boil for 5 minutes only, stirring occasionally during this phase. Let boil until the time is up or the temperature reaches 235 degrees F. on your cooking thermometer. Immediately remove from heat and carefully stir in the vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt. Mixture will begin to boil violently and may spit out hot candy! Using a long-handled wooden spoon, stir down the mixture until boiling subsides.
Pour the hot caramel syrup over popcorn and peanuts, stirring to evenly coat. Use a non-stick cooking spray on the spoon to help prevent the caramel corn from sticking to the spoon.
Place the roasting pan, with the coated popcorn and peanuts, in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes. The Caramel Corn is done when the caramel sauce has hardened into a crisp shell around every piece and no longer dripping to bottom of the pan.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, break apart any large clumps with your hands.
Store in airtight containers or resealable bags.
* Remember to remove any un-popped popcorn kernels.
Homemade Cracker Jacks Recipe: https://whatscookingamerica.net/Appetizers/CrackerJacks.htm