My good friend Alex’s 24th birthday occurred just recently. My friends and I are big fans of potlucks, so it seemed obvious that one should be held in his honor.
We decided to go with a universally loved theme: Southern food.
Buttery, greasy, and usually dripping with cheese, there’s everything to like when it comes to Southern food, and this SoCo caramel corn recipe is no exception.
The main ingredients: Southern Comfort and popcorn for the popping
Kernels in the pan. I followed Mark Bittman’s instructions on how to pop popcorn, which ended up making it surprisingly easy although not as much fun as I had envisioned. This was simply due to my delusional vision of popcorn exploding from the stove and covering my kitchen floor like a McDonald’s plastic ball pool.
The popped corn: pretty and white and fluffy
The good, Southern stuff: SoCo, vanilla, a whole lot of sugar and butter. Now, if that doesn’t sound like the makings of some good caramel, I don’t know what does!
On the baking pans. I wish I could have had pictures of the caramel forming and me pouring the liquid lava caramel on the popcorn and stirring it all together before the caramel hardened, but it really is a frantic 45 seconds. You’ll see what I mean.
The finished product. It certainly didn’t last too long, even with some stuff competition from THREE different mac-and-cheeses.
Southern Comfort Caramel Corn
½ cup of popcorn kernels
3 cups sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup Southern Comfort whiskey
1-½ teaspoons baking soda
Pop the popcorn and place in a very large bowl with room for stirring. If necessary, separate into two large bowls so that you have room for stirring without spilling over. Line a large jelly-roll pan with foil.
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and Southern Comfort on medium heat, stirring often. Continue to stir until the sugar melts and a deep caramel color is achieved. Double check that you have everything ready, because the addition of baking soda to the caramel will cause it to double in size quickly and bubble up. When you are ready to coat the popcorn, add the baking soda to the caramel and stir quickly. Remove from the heat and pour over the popcorn (eyeball about half the mixture into each bowl if you’ve had to split into two).
Stir the popcorn quickly and immediately after covering with the warm mixture so that every piece gets some coverage by the caramel. Spread the caramel-coated popcorn onto the foil-lined jelly-roll pan and allow to cool for approximately 10 to 20 minutes.
Peanuts or cashews would also be an excellent addition to this caramel corn.