Here it is, as promised! I'm really excited to share this Friday Recipe with you for a few reasons:
- It's a Carey-original recipe.
- Actually, that first statement is only partly true. It's really my mom's recipe, which is another reason why I'm thrilled to share it with you. I just added a tiny twist to make it mine.
- This is a super-simple recipe and if you have young cooks in the kitchen this would be a perfect recipe to start them out on. I learned this recipe when I was in Jr. High and my mom was my home economics teacher. I wasn't allowed to call her "mom" in class. That's a whole other weird story.
- The ingredient list is short and cheap.
- To put it plainly, it's good. Really good.
I have very few memories of my mother cooking with pre-packaged, processed foods. She preferred to make things from scratch, and she could. She was a brilliant cook. Ironically, although she was very health conscious (very!), she was fine with sweet treats that were homemade in our kitchen and we made this recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack often.
It's easy enough to whip up on a weeknight after dinner and still maintain a feeling of health because the ingredients are very natural. You can easily increase or decrease the size of your batch, making it a perfect party snack.
Are you ready? Let's get started! The full recipe will be at the end of this post, but I'll walk you through the finer points:
This recipe starts out simple enough... pop some popcorn. You can use air popped corn, microwave popcorn (natural, not flavored) or you can do the stovetop method, which is my personal favorite. You are going to need about 2 quarts of popcorn. Don't know how much that is? It is roughly 1/2 cup unpopped kernels but you can also use a 2 qt sauce pan to measure your corn after it is popped. This recipe is casual, easy-going, forgiving. Don't get too hung up on getting exactly 2 quarts of popped corn, just estimate. All will be well, I promise.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat combine the honey, butter and my addition, molasses. The molasses is optional, my mom didn't use it. But I think it adds one more delectable layer of flavor.
After those ingredients are melted and combined add the peanuts. Some of you observant ones are looking at the above photo and thinking, "Those don't look like peanuts!" You caught me! It turns out, I was all out of peanuts so I grabbed some almond slivers. This proves my point that this recipe is so easy, so forgiving. You can swap the peanuts for your favorite nut or better yet, use a combination of nuts. You could even leave the nuts out or use pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds instead.
Pour the melted honey-butter mixture over the popcorn and then using your hands or two spoons lightly toss the popcorn so the syrup and nuts are evenly distributed.
Slide the gooey popcorn onto a shallow baking sheet. I line mine with parchment so the cleanup is a snap. Spread the popcorn across the pan in a single, even layer. You observant ones have caught me again, "That doesn't look like a single layer!" Do as I say, not as I do! My pan was a little too small. But you can get around that non-problem by either giving the popcorn a little stir halfway through OR bake it in 2 batches.
Into a preheated 350 degree oven it goes for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it! It will be very sad if it burns because there is no salvaging burnt cracker jack. It will turn golden brown as it bakes, pull it out before it starts turning dark brown.
This part is important: when you take it out of the oven you must let it cool! You will be greatly tempted to start snacking on your cracker jack as soon as it comes out of the oven. It will smell nutty and sweet, glistening from the butter and honey. Resist! You will blister your fingers and taste buds, I speak from experience. Also, the popcorn might appear to be a little soggy when it first comes out of the oven. Be patient dear friend, you will be rewarded.
After about 15 minutes of relaxing on the counter the popcorn will be nearly dry and cool enough to touch. Slide your cracker jack into a big bowl, give it a little toss to break up any big clumps and enjoy!
It's crunchy and sweet. It's salty and nutty. It's addicting. I really hope you will give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!
Homemade Cracker Jack
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon molasses (optional)
2 quarts popped corn, in a large bowl
3/4 cup peanuts (can substitute other nuts, seeds or leave out completely)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter, honey and molasses in a small saucepan over medium heat. Mix in the nuts. Pour mixture evenly over the popcorn and toss lightly to coat the popcorn evenly with the butter mixture. Spread the sticky popcorn onto a shallow baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake the popcorn for 10-15 minutes, giving it a stir halfway through. Remove the popcorn from the oven when it has turned golden brown. Let it cool on the counter or stove top for 15 minutes before transferring to a large bowl. Gently toss to break up any clumps and enjoy!