Friday, March 30, 2012

Old-Time Popcorn Balls


Once I read in Monday's New York Daily News that popcorn is the new health food, I immediately made some -- and then doused the whole batch in sugar syrup.  Was that wrong?

Health benefits aside, I wanted to recreate the old-fashioned popcorn balls of my youth. Making popcorn balls is easy; the only challenge is working forming the popcorn into balls without burning one's hands, as the sugar syrup can be quite hot.  Run your hands under cold water for a minute before beginning.

This is a wonderful project to do with children; when my daughter turned nine, we made popcorn balls at her birthday party -- a fun and delicious activity.

First, make a big pot of popcorn.  And try not to eat it all while....


...the sugar syrup heats to 250 degrees, a painfully slow process until the very end when the temperature rises so quickly, you're hardly ready for it.  You don't need a candy thermometer (you can test the syrup by dropping a bit in a glass of cold water; it's ready when it forms a hard ball) but it does make things easier.


When the syrup reaches 250 degrees, take it from the fire and drizzle it on the popped corn.  I spread mine in a hotel pan -- next time I'll use a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to better distribute the liquid sugar.

The recipe is from the c. 1960s Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.



7 comments:

  1. The first (and last) time I tried making popcorn balls it was not pretty. I didn't have a thermometer then and cooked the sugar WAY too long. The few I did get formed into balls could likely have been considered lethal weapons and the clean up was awful. Soaking a large pot with brittle-ized popcorn stuck all over the inside still haunts me - what a mess!

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    1. Too funny, Tug's Girl! I have a couple of sugar disasters myself, like the time I put a spoon of cooked sugar in my mouth (left over from making lollipops) and glued my jaw shut and we were headed out to a dinner party! A lot of very hot coffee solved the problem. And I once discarded a pan that I thought was too daunting to clean after yet another disaster. Though I've read that one needs to reheat the mixture to convert it back to liquid to make clean-up easier.

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  2. I always thought popcorn balls were way too much work but just loved them if someone else made them. (My mom made them when I was young as in old-time for Halloween hand-outs) When I discovered making microwave caramel corn at a tupperware party. . . (now how many years ago could that have been!!??). . . I knew that was my substitute for popcorn balls with NO guilt!!
    Love the photos, though. Makes me hungry. I think I will just go and make some old-time popcorn sans balls?!?

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    1. Kevel -- They are a lot of work, but someone has to do it,right? Thanks for writing!

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  3. Mmm - as I read this post I could smell them! ;) I agree with kevel88 - too much work for me but will happily gobble them down if someone else would make them!

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