This time of year makes me crave popcorn balls. When I was little some people gave out homemade popcorn balls for Halloween. That was always a big draw when we came home and dumped our haul on the floor to show my dad. After he watched us sort the things, he would gently hint that maybe we could spare on of his favorites like a “Snickers” or a “Mars” bar. We never minded sharing because he seemed almost as excited as us to eat the treats.
It wasn’t long after our Halloween treats were gone that the holiday baking started. My mom made an impressive amount of candies, cookies and breads in preparation for Christmas. She made the candies first and stored them in tins in her bedroom. The popcorn balls were stored in a big container on top of the fridge, so they could be divided out slowly rather than devoured in one after-school binge.
I haven’t eaten popcorn balls for quite a while. Every time I have come across the treats as an adult, I have been disappointed. Sometimes people make them with colorful gelatin or marshmallows or they use microwave popcorn. I’m sure these versions have their fans, but they aren’t the sometimes crunchy, sometimes chewy treat that I remember. I love the old-fashioned, Karo-syrup coated, stove-top popcorn treat just the way Better Homes and Gardens featured them in 1953.
History:They were popular first half of the 20th century.
Time and Effort:They take less than an hour to make start to finish. You need to monitor the candy thermometer closely. If the syrup gets to hot, the balls will be too hard. Use lots of butter on your hands to prevent burns. It’s hard to work with the hot syrup.
Worth Adding to your Repertoire: They’re delicious! Be careful eating them if you have any crowns or false teeth!
5 quarts popped corn 1/2 C light corn syrup
2 Cups sugar 1 tsp. vinegar
1 1/2 Cups water 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
Keep popcorn hot and crisp in slow oven. Cook sugar, water, salt, vinega, and corn syrup to hard ball stage . Add vanilla. Pour slowly over popcorn; mix well to coat every kernel. Butter your hands and press into balls.