As we head into Christmas week, I decided the best way to kick it off was with one of our favorite family traditions. Actually, my husband gave me the idea, so I’ll share a few of his memories of the tradition as well as our “secret” family recipe, courtesy of my father-in-law. If you’re looking for a relatively simple tradition to start this Christmas, it’s not too late to give this one a try. Pop some popcorn, add a little Carmel, and enjoy this delightful family recipe!
How the Tradition Started
To B, few things say Christmas more than the taste and smell of fresh Carmel corn. He tells me the family gathered around the old fashioned popcorn maker watching the kernels pop and bounce around. After the corn was popped, they all moved to the stove where the sugar and butter was mixed together until it formed the rich, buttery Carmel. Next came the pans. Spreading the popcorn on the pans was a reminder of how soon the delightful treat would be finished. Drizzling on the Carmel mixture was next, and then came the sampling. “That was my favorite part, getting a big hunk of Carmel corn that took 3 or 4 bites to finish, the sweet, sticky Carmel getting stuck in my teeth,” he shared.
While the process looks a little different in our house, it’s a tradition that we’ve happily ushered into our home, too, one that I can’t wait to share with our little ones in future years. We don’t have a popcorn maker, so we just pop our popcorn in the microwave or on the stove. After we’ve mixed the Carmel and drizzled it over the fresh kernels, we let it cool and then dig in! The warm, salty smell and the rich, buttery, sweet flavor are more than enough to establish memories that will last a lifetime.
While Carmel corn is not necessarily an exact science, it does take a few batches to get it down to a fine art. If you’re up for the challenge, give our family recipe a try. I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as we do!
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ cup dark corn syrup
- ¼ cup margarine or butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 cups popcorn
- 1 cup pecan halves
- ½ cup blanched almonds
- Heat brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine, and salt to simmering in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add popcorn and stir until popcorn is well coated, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly.
- Dip hands in cold water; shape mixture into 2-inch balls. Place on waxed paper and cool completely.
- Heat oven to 300. Butter cookie sheet. Mix 1 cup pecan halves and ½ cup blanched almonds with popcorn. Spread mixture on cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes.
- Cool 10 minutes. Loosen mixture from cookie sheet with spatula. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour to harden.
Tips for Making the Perfect Carmel Popcorn
1. Stir Constantly
Constantly stirring the Carmel mixture is key to prevent burning and sticking. As you heat the mixture, keep stirring (no matter how tired your arm gets).
2. Cool Completely
While getting big hunks of Carmel corn is delightful, have individual pieces that are fully coated in Carmel makes the treat more enjoyable. After baking, letting the mixture stand at room temperature in a single layer keeps the mixture from sticking altogether.
3. Add Butter
Don’t skimp on the butter in your recipe. The butter adds richness to the Carmel mixture and forms the base for the treat. Choose a high quality butter and measure accurately.
The richest Christmas traditions are those that we associate with the scents, flavors, and events of the season. I promise if you try this recipe and make it a family activity, you’ll remember this activity with delightful (and flavorful) memories. We do!
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Do you make Carmel corn or any other delightful treat year after year?