I feel extremely lucky to live so close to my sister-in-law and her gorgeous family. In fact, one of my favorite labels next to “wife” and “rad” is “auntie.” So when I heard my adorable nieces were going to be attending the fall festival at their school, and that sweet treats were needed for the bake sale, I wielded my whisk and apron and got to work on one of my favorite holiday desserts.
Popcorn balls may not seem so special to everyone, but for me they are a throwback to Christmas at my aunt’s house in the early 1980’s. All of the relatives would converge on her sprawling pad and bring their signature homemade dishes to share at the ultimate family feast. There was always a variety of traditional Norwegian dishes, some of which I would greedily grab with two hands, (mmm lefsa and krumkake) and some of which I would hold my nose and scurry past (lukafisk, seriously? Who eats that?) What I always relished was placed at the very end of the food line piled up in a majestic colorful stack like an edible stained-glass window. My great aunt Lucille’s popcorn balls were tremendous. As big as grapefruits and in assorted holiday colors, they were the perfect sweetness, stickiness, and cap to the grand banquet.
The recipe I used for the girls’ bake sale was unfortunately not Lucille’s. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with food coloring, but when I read, “add vinegar” on the McCormick’s box, I knew enough to know I was out of my league. Instead, I used a recipe that incorporates Jell-O, which colors and flavors the popcorn in a subtle, yet oh so pleasing way.
Here’s the recipe I used:
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. sugar
1 (3 oz.) pkg. Jello
9-12 c. popped popcorn
Bring syrup and sugar to boil. Remove from heat and add Jello, stirring until dissolved. Pour over popcorn, mixing well. Form into balls.
I used orange Jell-O for a nice fall look, and then bagged them up and labeled with “Mmm… Popcorn!” on foam leaves. The consummate marketer, no? They were a hit at the sale, and at home. Mmm… Popcorn indeed!