Sweet, slightly salty and oh-so-crunchy crunchy popcorn balls make a tasty treat - and an easy to make holiday gift. I prefer using our non-GMO Extra Large or Mushroom popcorn kernels when making this recipe - which you can buy here - but David and many of our friends prefer using the Ruby Red kernels, which give the popcorn balls a very subtle nutty flavor.
Many popcorn ball recipes use corn syrup, which is fine. I prefer the warm, more complex flavor that dark muscovado sugar gives.
RECIPE: Holiday Popcorn Balls
8 cups popped popcorn
¾ cup honey
½ cup demerara sugar (or granulated white)
½ cup dark muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
½ cup water
1 – 1 ½ T salted butter
Large pinch of sea salt & splash of vanilla extract
Pop your popcorn and set it aside in a large bowl. Don't have a big enough bowl? Place your popped popcorn onto a cookie sheet. With both the bowl and the cookie sheet, be sure to butter them - or spray them with non-stick spray - before you add the popcorn. (Why? It will help cut down on the stickiness later.)
Next, add honey, sugars, salt and water into a non-reactive saucepan. Put the pan on a burner, over low heat, and stir until the mix begins to boil. STIR CONSTANTLY, otherwise it could burn. Add the butter. Keep stirring until the butter melts, then add your vanilla extract as the mixture starts to thicken.
Optional tip: If you'd like to flavor your popcorn balls, add other flavor extracts - such as peppermint - at this stage.
Cook your mixture to a firm ball stage (or get a candy thermometer and cook mixture to 248 degrees F). Pull the pan off the heat and CAREFULLY drizzle the mixture over your popped popcorn. (Be cautious not to burn yourself!) Make sure to evenly coat your popcorn.
Finally, butter your hands (so the popcorn balls don't stick to your skin!) Then carefully pull out a large handful of the coated popped corn, and press it into a ball shape. Place on wax paper and repeat process. When cool, wrap the popcorn balls in food-grade cellophane or plastic wrap and gift.
Makes about 8 popcorn balls.
Technique tip: Don't want to get your hands so sticky? Oil a measuring cup and stuff the popcorn into the cup. When it's full, turn the cup over and tap the popcorn ball onto wax paper. Then shape the popcorn ball however you like!