I'm a child of the 1980s, which means that every year after trick-or-treating, my parents would rifle through my candy and make sure to discard anything homemade, just in case, you know, there were razors hidden inside it.
Which means that every year, I would see popcorn balls, but never be allowed to taste a popcorn ball. And that is how I made it to my 29th Halloween without ever tasting a popcorn ball. I asked Judson what a popcorn ball tasted like before making this recipe, because he's five years older than me and so when it comes to weird childhood things from the 1980s, he often knows things I don't. 'I can't really remember,' he answered, 'but I think it's just like popcorn with peanut butter in the middle.'
And that was how I learned that popcorn balls in the South and popcorn balls in Florida were completely different in the 1980s.
So when I found a recipe for popcorn balls and another one for taffy apples in the box, I was super excited to make them. Halloween has always been my favourite holiday, as long as I can remember, so of course I was stoked to make some Halloween treats for my friends.Unlike the ones I grew up receiving as a treat at Halloween (but never actually tasting), I chose not to dye these popcorn balls, though, because, I mean, eww.
Anyway, you still have time to make these treats to gift to your friends for Halloween, but for the love of God, don't hand them out to trick-or-treaters or you'll raise another generation of people like me whose parents will just throw away their treats. Oh... and in case you're still brainstorming costumes for this weekend, here are a few ideas for you:
Note in case you're not from the Northern US that, although called Taffy Apples, these are an exact replica of what I grew up calling candy apples, and what are called, here in the UK, toffee apples. Nomenclature notwithstanding, these are insanely simple to make, and a perfect accompaniment to your Halloween/All Saints/Bonfire Night festivities. Note also that I couldn't get my mitts on any popsicle sticks, so I had to use bamboo skewers. This is not recommended because they're too flimsy to hold the apple very well, but since I was giving these to adults who will likely be cutting them off the stick to eat anyway, I figured it was fine in this instance.
5 spoons out of five. Come on, they're homemade Halloween treats, what did you expect?
Preheat oven to 120C/250F.
Place popped popcorn in a large, greased pan and put in oven.
In a large pot, stir together corn syrup and sugar.
Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat, then stop stirring.
Cook until temperature reaches 140C/290F, about 10 minutes (until a spoonful of syrup dropped into cold water separates into hard-- not brittle-- threads).
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Slowly pour mixture over popcorn, stirring well.
Allow to cool just enough to handle.
Grease hands well and quickly shape popcorn into balls.
Makes 4 balls.
2 c freshly popped popcorn, plain
½ c corn syrup or golden syrup
½ c sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Grease a cookie sheet very well and set aside.
Wash and dry apples and insert popsicle sticks in the stem end.
Set apples aside.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, water, and vinegar and stir well.
Cook over low heat to 300F (hard crack stage on a candy thermometer) or until a spoonful of syrup dropped into cold water separates into hard (not brittle) threads.
Remove from heat and add a few drops of red food colouring.
Dip apples into hot mixture and roll until covered, removing quickly.
Re-dip until taffy covers apples.
Set apples on end on prepared cookie sheet.
Note: If taffy begins to harden in pot, put pan in boiling water or over double boiler and reheat.
3 medium apples
3 popsicle sticks
¾ c sugar
1/6 c corn syrup or golden syrup
1/6 c water
¼ tbsp vinegar
Red food coloring