OK, store bought caramel corn is pretty disgusting. And expensive.
Here is one ingredient list from a caramel corn that is $4.59 for just 4 oz. The company that produces this garbage shall remain nameless:
Caramel Corn Clusters Ingredients: Wheat free cereal fibers, vegetable fibers, coconut oil, fractionated palm kernel oil, almonds, canola oil, soy concentrate, popcorn, soy flour water, heavy cream, maltodextrin, milk protein concentrate, natural flavors, monocalcium phosphate, sodium caseinate, salt, soy lecithin, vegetable gums, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, low glycemic fruit concentrate.
That kind of food should be illegal! Look how many ingredients are listed before popcorn-can you even call that food?
The only special tool you need to make caramel corn from scratch is a candy thermometer. This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens and is fool proof. Even is you stupidly reach into the boiling caramel to retrieve a spoon such as I did and have to spend 5 minutes running cold water over your thumb and the caramel cooks too long, it is easy to repair in the oven.
8 cups popped popcorn (If you use microwave popcorn, please use plain without any added salt, flavorings, or color)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Remove all unpopped kernels from popcorn. Spread popcorn out on a baking sheet with sides.
Heat oven to 300 F.
In heavy sauce pan combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup.
Cook and stir over medium heat until boiling. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Make sure thermometer doesn't touch the bottom of your pan.
Cook and stir over medium heat until hard-ball stage--255 F. This can take anywhere from 4-8 minutes depending on your pan so pan attention.
Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture over popcorn. Use two spoons to toss and coat popcorn. Don't worry if candy is already starting to harden and isn't spreading properly. You will be remixing candy in the middle of baking.
Bake in 300 F oven for 15 minutes. Take out of oven and toss to coat once again. This time the candy should be nice and gooey and easy to mix. Bake 5 minutes more.
Transfer popcorn to a large piece of foil. Allow to cool and then break apart candied popcorn.
I took this along with some homemade brownies to a dinner party last night and the popcorn was gone long before the brownies. It is such an easy and inexpensive thing to make. Don't be surprised if you get a bag of this from me for the holidays!