There’s something about the holidays that makes me crave popcorn. Maybe it’s the ceiling high stacks of popcorn tins at every drug store (empty tins=AWESOME storage). I haven’t bought one of those tins in years, but remember my family going through at least one every holiday as a child. The caramel corn would always be the first flavor to go. The the regular, then the cheddar would usually linger around until it went stale. It wasn’t a very popular flavor in my household. I think I shared most of it with our dog.
When I was in elementary school we often had class parties where students would be encouraged to bring in sugary treats (ah, the good old days when sugar was welcome in schools…). Rather than the usual cupcakes (and we’re talking Betty Crocker mix cupcakes here) or rice crispy treats, my mom made Popcorn Balls. They were so cute, red or green, wrapped in that pretty tinted cling wrap they used to sell. I can’t locate her original recipe. It’s been years, but I swear she used jello powder to help them stick and color the balls. Whenever I see them at a holiday bake sale, they just make me smile.
Holiday Popcorn Balls (adapted from Taste of Home) Makes 20
- 7 qt popped popcorn
- 1 c sugar
- 1 c light corn syrup
- 1/4 c water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Several drops of red or green food coloring, optional
Keep popcorn warm by spreading onto a large baking sheet and storing in oven at 200°F. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 235° (soft-ball stage). Remove from the heat. Add the butter, vanilla and food coloring if desired; stir until butter is melted. Immediately pour over popcorn and stir until evenly coated. When mixture is cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 3-in. balls, dipping hands in cold water to prevent sticking. Wrap in colored cling wrap if you can find it!
PS…if anyone has the original jello based recipe, please share! My favorite part was that the red popcorn balls would taste like strawberry and the green ones lime.