We all love caramel corn, but as a kid, due to some dental misfortune, I had silver caps on all of my teeth. This led to my parents being very careful about what I ate, fearing I would damage my shiny chompers. Sticky caramel was for the most part off the table, leading me (of course) to develop a lifelong affinity for the stuff. At that time the mysteries of caramel never compelled me to look farther past the sticky substance wrapped in cellophane papers made by Brach that was quickly confiscated from my plastic trick or treat pumpkin. Post baby teeth, but not many Halloween’s later, I decided to make caramel apples and bring them to school for my class.
Making caramel for the first time I did not need to consult a recipe, I just unwrapped around 100 little squares of purchased caramel and melted them, but I had a pot of caramel filled with unknown ingredients that took forever to make, while driving me crazy. At the time I just figured that caramel apples were way too much of a pain in the booty and while they sure were tasty, not worth the trouble. However, caramel is really just melted cooked sugar. For the kid in us all, I have adapted my forbidden childhood sweets into a real food Halloween treat that features organic popcorn, pistachios and a spiced up coconut sugar caramel made with grass-fed butter. A spicy-sweet treat without scary, tricky ingredients.
1 C unpopped popcorn
2 C Coconut Sugar
1 C Butter
1 T Sea Salt for caramel, additional salt to finish.
1 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup toasted chopped pistachios
Prepare popcorn either in air popper or on the stovetop. To make popcorn on the stovetop use a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed large pot with a lid and warm over medium to medium high heat. Coat the bottom with a little heat friendly oil or ghee. Once the pan is warmed put in three popcorn kernels and close lid and allow to pop. If kernels look over browned turn pot down. If they took forever to pop and came out soggy, then turn down the heat. Remove those three kernels and add the rest of the popcorn and cover with lid. Once the popcorn begins to pop vigorously I crack the lid a tiny bit to let excess steam out and keep popcorn crisp. You will also want to continuously shake the pot so that they kernels don’t stick and burn. Once the popping seems to be slowing down turn off the heat and leave it covered for a moment so stray pops don’t shoot popcorn all over your kitchen, then transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
Make caramel by heating butter and coconut sugar together over low heat. When sugar melts add salt, vanilla and cayenne and turn up heat to medium high, bring mixture up to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so mixture doesn’t burn. Caramel should smell awesome and look thick and bubbly.
While cooking caramel you can prepare your pistachios. A lot of bulk bins at major markets sell pistachio meats out of the shell. If you buy these they will probably be un-toasted so you will want to put them in a 350 degree oven for around 12 minutes to toast, stirring occasionally. Or you can do what I had to do with my last batch of caramel corn and shell toasted and salted pistachios. If toasting your own pistachios you may want to add more salt to the caramel. No matter your method, after toasting or shelling place your pistachios in a dishtowel and rub the majority of the skins off the nuts. You may want to work in handful-sized batches at a time and rub until at least the larger loose chunks of the papery skin are removed. Roughly chop the pistachios and reserve.
Be careful to let caramel cool to a reasonably warm not scalding temperature before adding to the popcorn so you don’t burn yourself. It helps to have another person to toss the caramel corn as you slowly pour the caramel over popcorn to ensure it is evenly coated. Next add pistachios, sprinkle with additional salt and toss mixture gently. Using your perfectly clean hands make balls out of the mixture, I think large fist sized caramel corn balls are the best. This caramel corn will keep well tightly covered in a cool dry place for a few days.
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