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Popcorn Balls for Christmas or Anytime Treats

November 5, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile October may be national popcorn popping month it’s not just snacking on popcorn that makes it popular. Popcorn is a ‘healthy’ snack that is also inexpensive and easy to make. It’s somewhat a tradition around Halloween and Christmas that another treat comes into tradition – popcorn balls.

At a time before there were too many razor blades and needles in candy, my grandma made popcorn balls to give out at Halloween. It was a favorite spot to stop, not just because she pretended not to recognize us.

Recipes for popcorn balls vary widely and can easily be adapted for seasons or individual tastes. A basic recipe is 3 quarts popped popcorn in a large bowl. Melt a tablespoon butter and a cup of molasses with ½ cup sugar and a half teaspoon salt, simmering until a drop in cold water is brittle. Pour over the popcorn gradually, stirring to coat thoroughly and shape into balls when cool enough to handle. Other recipes use corn syrup and adding a cup of mini marshmallows to the hot mix makes a chewy popcorn ball.

For Christmas popcorn balls think extras! Finely crushed candy canes, chopped nuts, sprinkles, colored sugar and even honey butter can be used to add a variety of tastes and textures to your popcorn balls. You can even use a half cup of peanut butter, cinnamon candy or gelatin to color the popcorn balls red or green. If you’re really inventive use pretzels and M&Ms to press into the balls to make reindeer or a little shredded coconut for a ‘beard’ for Santa popcorn balls.

For ‘healthy’ popcorn balls use honey, peanut butter or raisins instead of the candy. Chopped nuts of various kinds can add some extra variety as well as cinnamon.

I love maple flavoring so adapt by popping the corn, heating a half teaspoon salt, a cup of maple syrup and 1 ½ teaspoons butter – keep the popped corn warm while heating the other ingredients to 250F on a candy thermometer, pouring over the popcorn and forming into balls when it’s cool enough to handle. Buttering your hands reduces it from being sticky on your hands. If they last long enough to store keep them in an airtight container.

There is a wide range of recipes available limited only by your taste and imagination. Christmas popcorn ball recipes are not difficult and it’s a shame in many areas the traditions of making and giving has been altered by some who have changed our way of seeing homemade food gifts from strangers.

Making them at home still means a tasty snack that can be made in a variety of flavors. Try some this year!

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