Every year for the past umpteen years, my Mom and I make a lot of something to give to our neighbors, friends and our employees. This number used to run towards 80 and even 90 or 100 some years. However, my 'retirement' to raise my family knocked some of that number down, and my Mom's responsibilities have grown smaller, too. So we're down to making 50 to perhaps 60 of something.
Each year we talk for months about what we can do with what we've got, or what scripture we want to emphasize this year or what we can actually accomplish without giving up too much time with our families, but we rarely get to it until the deadline approaches. This year was no different. And this year we had the extra time consuming stress of doing the St. Louis drive bys so we opted for easy. Or relatively so, anyway. We opted to make Baked Caramel Corn.
Baked Caramel Corn is a old family-type recipe. We've used it for years, ever since I was a teenager. And we won't go in to how long ago that was. Anyway, Mom and I hatched a plan to bake for two solid days. We'd turn out enough to fill her 40 large tins for her staff as well as gallons for friends, neighbors, carry in parties and our own Christmas celebrations, of course. And we did it. Two days, and about 22 double batches later, approximately 88 gallons of caramel corn worked its way from the Stir Crazy, to the coating bowls, to the oven, and then the counter to cool. Then we packaged it according to how it was to be given and we're good to go. Many of our presents were taken care of and the stress of production is relieved.
However, the best part of the whole thing doesn't have anything to do with Christmas at all. It was just spending time with my family at my Mom's, enjoying everyone as we baked. The boys built a stick pile last week as they helped Poppy finish up the yard work for the year. Yesterday evening they lit it and made some s'mores. Tomorrow they will relight it to enjoy the rest of the pile before it becomes snow covered once again. Laura played with her babies, her dollhouses and wrote her 'wetter to Sanna' while watching her favorite PBS Christmas movies. And Don joined us when he got home from work. Yes, that was my absolute favorite part. Time with my family. After all, isn't sharing the love with them what Christmas is really part of celebrating Christmas? :)
Here is our tried and true Baked Caramel Corn recipe. I strongly recommend you not double it in the same pot but make two pots at the same time, pouring them over the corn individually before combining them on your trays. I've found over the years that I prefer a bit more popcorn than the 6 qts the recipe recommends and therefore make a bit more per each coating recipe. I've also found that if you double the recipe, you can bake it on three large trays instead of four. Just remember to stir it every 15 minutes or so! And enjoy!
Baked Caramel Corn
1 C butter or margarine
2 C firmly packed brown sugar
½ C light corn syrup
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
6 quarts popped popcorn
Melt butter; stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly,. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in soda and vanilla. Gradually pour over popped corn, mixing well. Turn on to 2 large shallow baking pans. Bake in 250F oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely. Break apart. Makes about 5 quarts Caramel Corn.