The Best Homemade Caramel Popcorn

I am completely obsessed with the Essential New York Times Cookbook. Edited by the talented and funny Amanda Hesser, the book has over 1,000 recipes that Hesser found, tested, and updated from 150 years of Times archives. It's tempting to want to cook my way through it (a daunting task) but every single thing I've tried has been delicious. Usually I try to include a lot of vegetables with dinner but on a recent night when my boyfriend was really sick, I decided smoothies and homemade caramel popcorn was in order. So I made vegan chocolate cake batter smoothies (healthier than it sounds-includes oats, cashew butter, almond milk, carob powder & chocolate chips), and "To Sugar or Crystallize Pop-Corn" (otherwise known as caramel corn) from the Times cookbook. The recipe was originally printed in 1878 (!!) and is an addicting mix of sweet and salty. You can't tell in the photo that the caramel is on the popcorn but it is - the perfect light, sweet coating.

I will never make microwave popcorn again. It is way too easy to use a little bit of corn oil, popcorn kernels and a large pot on the stove.

"To Sugar or Crystallize Pop-Corn" from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

Corn Oil
1/2 cup popcorn
1T unsalted butter
3T water
3/4 cup sugar
Salt (optional - I think you definitely need it)

1. Cover the bottom of a large heavy pot with corn oil. Add the popcorn, stir to coat, cover, and place over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking frequently, until all the popcorn has popped. Remove from the heat and keep covered.

2. Combine the butter, water, and sugar in another large pot, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissoves and the mixture begins to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour in the popcorn, and stir quickly to coat the kernels with the caramel--some will stick to the pot. Season with salt if desired, and scrape into a serving bowl.

Makes 4 quarts