Appalachian Thursday–Homemade Halloween
No, I’m not talking about costumes, although those were often homemade. I’m talking about treats.
When we went trick or treating in Laurel Fork, WV, we got our fair share of store-bought candy. But there were also plenty of homemade treats. Of course, we knew everyone whose door we knocked upon, and there were no worries about getting anything suspicious.
My Great Aunt Dorothy usually had popcorn balls and caramel apples. They’d be arranged on a tray in the kitchen. We’d come in out of the cold long enough to select a treat, be dazzled by indoor lights, and be admired by the grown-ups.
What I remember about the apples is getting in trouble for eating the caramel off the outside and wanting to pitch the remains. Mom had strong opinions about wasting the only healthy item in our trick-or-treat bag.
The popcorn balls, though, were good through and through. Crunchy, sweet, delicious!
2 quarts popped corn
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water1/4 cup water
salt to taste
splash of vanilla extract
Pop all that corn. Air popped is nice so that the kernels are fluffy and dry, but I love using an old-fashioned stove top popper. Put the popped corn in a barely warm oven on a cookie sheet or in a huge, metal bowl to keep toasty while you make the syrup.
Add the sugar through salt to a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Stick your candy thermometer in there and cook without stirring until it hits 270 degrees. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the vanilla. Pour over popcorn (I like a BIG bowl for this) and stir with a long handled spoon until the popcorn is pretty well coated.
Now for the fun! Butter your hands to protect them from the now only slightly less molten syrup and form the mixture into balls. Be careful! This stuff is hot, but if you let it cool too much, it won’t stick.
Warning: Don’t try to eat a still warm popcorn ball unless you want to lose some fillings. Let them cool completely and enjoy!