Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls

A 1950 Karo Syrup ad with a recipe for popcorn balls.
My son is a Boy Scout, which means every fall I have to buy popcorn from him. Then the next fall, I throw out about half of a box of popcorn and buy a new one. It's a ritual I've kept for many years.

Last year, we got some sort of chocolate drizzled thing that was really good, and lasted through only early December. This year, I only briefly glanced at the pretty brochure. A product called Double Caramel caught my eye. If caramel is good, double caramel should be doubly good, right?

Not so fast.

I failed to read the fine print, which read, "with a hint of cheese." Now who on earth would ever think to combine caramel and cheese? Although they are possibly my two favorite foods, they do not belong together the way chocolate and peanut butter do. This is the nastiest popcorn EVER. Even the dog won't eat it.

When I was a kid, we got popcorn in jars that my father would put into a pot on the stove along with a generous amount of corn oil and cook until it was mostly popped. Sometimes, my mother would pull out the Karo Syrup and make popcorn balls, which we all liked a lot. She usually made them around holidays, so it seems fitting to have a weekend recipe moment. You can use up some of that unpopped Boy Scout popcorn from last year.

From True Story Magazine, 1950

Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls

1 cup Karo Syrup, Blue or Green Label
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vinegar
2 Tbl butter or margarine
2 quarts unsalted popcorn

Combine first four ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to hard ball stage (260°F) or until a small amount of mixture forms a hard ball when tested in very cold water. Remove from heat; quickly add butter and blend. Slowly pour over popcorn in large bowl, while mixing well. Form into balls, using as little pressure as possible. Butter hands, if desired. Makes 15 about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Pastel Popcorn Balls: Follow above recipe, using Red Label Karo instead of Blue or Green label, and substitute granulated sugar for brown. Add 2 tsp vanilla with butter. Tint syrup desired shade with vegetable coloring.

According to the ad, there were 3 kinds of Karo Syrup at this time. Blue for Dark syrup, Red for Light Syrup, and Green for Maple-y syrup.

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