I put out a call on Facebook. I picked up the phone. I tweeted. No one ponied up with a good popcorn ball recipe. I was making them with 40 first graders, so they needed to be easy. But I’m me, so they couldn’t be completely disgusting. They were still pretty disgusting, though, because they are popcorn held together with some form of sugar and smooshed together. But they were also really really fun. The kids loved squishing them as hard as they could, “harder than you think you should,” I told them. At six it seems that kids like being told to do things they think they shouldn’t do. Like man-handle popcorn, or eat yet another candy cane, or dredge seaweed out of a nasty-ass duck pond in the park at a birthday party, or hit that piñata just as hard as they possibly can, or eat a popcorn ball before breakfast. I’m just saying, as examples that may or may not have occurred over this pre-holiday weekend.
May your Christmas be merry and – since between travel and school break and general merriment I’m going to be more offline than on – a super duper happy beginning to 2010.
You can use any popcorn you want for these, but stove-top popped corn really does taste better. I fear the art of popping corn without a gadget, be it microwave or hot-air corn popper, is quickly becoming a lost one. I explain how to do it below.
1 – 2 Tablespoons vegetable, canola, or other neutral tasting oil
1/2 cup popcorn
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 1 cup nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, red hots, little candies, or other tiny items of tastiness you’d like to add to your popcorn balls
Butter or spray oil
Heat a large pot over high heat. Add oil and let that heat up for about 30 seconds. Add popcorn, shake pot to coat the corn with oil, cover, and shake the pot every few seconds until you hear that first kernel pop. Reduce the heat to medium and shake intermittently as the corn pops. When the kernels slow down and there are a few seconds between each pop, take off the heat and set the lid ajar. Let sit until corn stops popping. (At this point you can add butter or salt or brewer’s yeast or whatever else you like on your corn if you’re not making popcorn balls.)
Heat corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves completely. Pour syrup over popcorn, add nuts or raisins or whatever if that’s your style, and stir to coat popcorn as completely as possible.
Coat your hands with butter or spray oil (it ends up, kids love having their hands sprayed with oil, even as they scream “eww” and “yuck” and “what *is* that?” as you spray them), grab a handful of popcorn and press it into a ball. This will be more difficult than you may think, especially if you don’t have snowball-making experience. You will need to squish it much more and harder than you think you should. Once you have a ball, you can add more popcorn, again pressing it on much firmer than seems right, to make a bigger popcorn ball, if you like. The small ones are so cute, though, that I’m not sure why you’d do that.
You’ll get 10 – 12 handful-size popcorn balls with this recipe.