Both of my grandmas were fantastic cooks. Grandma Rayl was the epitome of a country cook–fried chicken, cubed steak with mashed potatoes & gravy, amazing pies and so on. Grandma Milburn could do those things, too, but she really liked to entertain. She had quite a knack for homemade candies. She would make a lot of the things that take too much patience for me to want to make, like toffee, divinity, from-scratch fudge and buttery caramels.
There are two of her candy recipes that I make almost every year–peanut brittle and this caramel corn. Delicious! Since World War II was a not-so-distant memory in the 1970s, Grandma’s recipe calls for margarine, but I prefer using real butter.
5 qts. popped popcorn, unpopped kernels removed as much as possible
2 sticks butter
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
Combine butter, cream of tartar, brown sugar and corn syrup in stockpot (non-stick if possible). Bring to a boil and boil for five minutes ONLY.
Add baking soda. Stir well. It foams up high and is HOT so handle with care!
Pour over popcorn and mix thoroughly.
Spread on buttered cookie sheets and bake in 200 degree oven for one hour. Stir with pancake turner occasionally.
Put on waxed paper and cool, then break into pieces. Keeps well in airtight container.
NOTE: Homemade caramel corn does not look like storebought caramel corn. Every single bit of every single fluffy kernel will not be perfectly covered with caramel. Don’t worry about it; just eat it.