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Caramel popcorn is a snack that contains butter, sugar, popped corn, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla. Some recipes also include peanuts, walnuts, or pecans. Other recipe variations include sweetened condensed milk or marshmallows. Caramel popcorn can also be formed into balls, which are popular at fairs and festivals and as Halloween treats.
To make caramel popcorn, most recipes recommend boiling the sugar, corn syrup, butter or margarine, and salt. After adding baking soda and vanilla, pour this mixture over popped corn. In recipes that include nuts, the nuts are mixed with the popcorn before the sweetened, heated mixture is added. To make caramel popcorn balls, use your hands to form the coated popcorn into shapes approximately the size of a tennis ball and place on waxed paper for cooling. Carmel popcorn can also be made using a microwave oven.
Popcorn is a special form of corn, containing a small amount of water in each kernel. When heated, that drop of water expands, causing the kernel to burst. Too much or too little water is the reason for the unpopped kernels in a bag or bowl. To keep popped corn fresh, store it in the freezer.
National Popcorn Day is celebrated on January 19 each year. Americans are especially fond of popcorn, eating an average of over 60 quarts (57 l) per year. Plain, air popped corn is healthiest because it is low in fat and high in fiber. As a complex carbohydrate, it does not raise blood sugar levels quickly. Caramel corn, however, contains more fat and sugar due to the butter and sweetening ingredients.
Caramel popcorn and other flavored popcorns are extremely popular snacks. Many gourmet popcorn flavors are available, including seasoned, candied, and nut flavors. Seasoned varieties include cheese, ranch, sour cream, and jalapeño flavors. Fruit and caramel popcorn flavors are considered candied varieties. Nut flavors are available in almond, macadamia and pecan. Gourmet popcorn is even available in cookies-and-cream and combination caramel and cheese.
Cracker Jack, a sweet and salty snack, is a commercially available form of caramel popcorn that also includes peanuts. The origins of Cracker Jack go back to Chicago’s World Fair in 1863, when F.W. and Lewis Ruekenheim introduced a similar confection to fairgoers. Crunch 'N’ Munch is another brand of caramel popcorn that contains peanuts. It is made by ConAgra Foods, Inc. and has been around since 1966.