By Casey Archibald
The 4th of July is filled with memories for most people. For me, the memories that flash through my mind include the time when I accidentally shot a bottle rocket at my high school boyfriend (don’t worry, he was fine), when I went out on my good friend’s boat to the middle of Lake Washington to watch fireworks, and when I rode my bike with my cousins at our annual family 4th party.
The 4th is coming and it’s time to make new memories with these fun and delicious red, white and blue treats. It’s gotten me in a patriotic mood, and we hope it does the same for you!
This delicious popcorn can be adapted to any occasion with a simple change of the colors and flavors. But we were trying to be festive, so we chose to stick with the red, white and blue theme. There are two ways to create patriotic popcorn. One has sprinkles, and the other has dye and flavor.
Top Tips for Success with Every Batch
- There are really only three secrets to making candy popcorn: Use a thermometer, be careful not to let the sugar crystallize, and add baking soda. But we’ll give you more.
- Use a thermometer and cook your candy coating to 235 degrees Fahrenheit but do not exceed 245 degrees Fahrenheit. (Boiling time should not exceed 3 minutes). Undercooked and it’s too sticky; overcooked and it’s too hard.
- Don’t let it crystallize. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pot while the sugar is dissolving in the liquid. Even one sugar crystal added to the syrup will cause the whole batch to crystallize, making the syrup gritty and dull in color. Your candy popcorn won’t be as pretty or tasty.
- If you’re wondering why we have included baking soda to our candy popcorn recipes…well here’s why: Baking soda helps aerate the caramel which makes it easier to eat when cooled. Be careful, after you add the baking soda, the syrup will get very frothy. To prevent it from bubbling over, keep stirring.
- If you plan on making several different flavors/colors of popcorn do them all in separate batches. If you were to separate the mixture after cooking a large batch and add color/flavor to each, the mixture will have cooled too much and you will not achieve the right temperature for making candy popcorn.
- The flavor added in these recipes should be added last. The flavor becomes less potent the longer it stays in the heat. The syrup should be poured over popcorn immediately after stirring in the flavor.
- When you’re pouring the syrup mixture into your bowl of popcorn, DO NOT scrape the pan. There are sugar crystals stuck to the bottom of the pan that may crystallize your entire batch of candy popcorn.
- Once you’ve mixed your candy syrup with the popcorn, place it on wax paper. Flatten the candy popcorn with a spatula and let cool. Once it has cooled break off into desired portions.
French Vanilla Popcorn
French vanilla is a very sweet vanilla and it makes a very tasty popcorn. It also comes out more of a white color than caramel popcorn does.
Yields 14 cups of candy popcorn
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup white corn syrup (Karo)
1/8 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons French vanilla flavor
patriotic sprinkles (red, white and blue)
1. Pop the popcorn kernels. Set aside in 2 large bowls.
2. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan.
3. Add the corn syrup and water. Stir.
4. Add the sugar. Make sure not to let any sugar stick to the edges of the pan. If one grain of sugar is left undissolved, it can cause the whole batch to crystallize.
5. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 235-245 degrees (we suggest using a candy thermometer). It is important for the mixture to reach this temperature, if it doesn’t the candy will not harden properly.
6. Add the baking soda and stir quickly as the mixture begins to bubble. Once bubbly and frothy, remove the pan from heat.
7. Add the flavor and mix in.
8. Pour the syrup over the popped popcorn in both bowls. Fold into the popcorn until evenly coated.
9. Once the popcorn has cooled slightly, sprinkle with the patriotic sprinkles, to taste until evenly coated.
Baker’s Note: This recipe can also be doubled successfully. If you would like a richer caramel, substitute another 1/2 cup brown sugar for the granulated sugar
For the Colored Popcorn
Follow the directions as above, but make three batches or divide the recipe into thirds. When you get to step seven, add flavor and food color to the mixture. Exchange the vanilla for a different flavor depending on which color you are working on. Make one batch blue, one red and leave the other white. It’s more fun if you flavor the popcorn to match the color. For example, try flavoring the blue batch blueberry and the red one strawberry. Sans the sprinkles at the end of the recipe. You can serve your patriotic popcorn side by side, or you can mix the three flavors together while the popcorn is still warm.