Maybe it began with the Halloween scares in the early 80s… maybe it was just bound to happen as food and “fake” food became more abundant. The dismissal of popcorn balls as a holiday staple leaves a lot to be desired.
First off, popcorn is still a bargain. We enjoy it for supper many nights when we have had a large or heavy lunch. We enjoy it with movie night. It’s a special treat at the theater, where it costs an arm and leg. But most of all, I love popcorn balls.
Remember the razor blade in the apple trick that scared folks into not making homemade treats for Halloween Trick or Treaters? Sad, but true that sometime during that period of a few years people became afraid of homemade food and Tylenol. Sad… so very sad that that may have been the beginning of the down fall of good wholesome off the farm food.
Popcorn balls were my favorite. My grandmother made them for Christmas, my mom made them for Christmas. Since we ate a lot of plain popcorn, the sweetened stuff like gold. Maybe not so good for our teeth, but since we ate few sweets and hardly ever between meals, maybe it wasn’t as bad as one would think.
This year when I made popcorn balls and Cracker Jacks I thought of my mom and how she couldn’t eat popcorn balls anymore because of her health. It made me sad. Her dad, my grandfather told me once that we should eat what we enjoy when we are young because as you get older they start taking it away from you – so here I am eating popcorn balls for Christmas and praying my teeth stay put.
Popcorn balls are really quite simple to make and there are tons of recipes out there from plain syrup and sugar to Jell-O colored balls like the ones my Grandma Meidinger made.
I waited until right before Christmas to make them, unlike the batches and batches or replacement Chex mix I have to make cause we eat so much of it. That’s what I did yesterday. Four StirCrazy popcorn maker loads of balls and Cracker Jack with peanuts. The Cracker Jack reminds me of the Christmas gift we always received from Grandma Meidinger. They had so many grandchildren it was usually a wrapped box of Cracker Jack with a coin or dollar bill inside – the wrapping paper not the box.
Here is a recipe for Cracker Jack I found in the January 1976 issue of Prairies Magazine provided by Mrs. Anton Wangler of Burnstad.
Cracker Jack Popcorn
6 or 7 cups popcorn — I made two poppers full, no butter, but salted; and then doubled this recipe.
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white or brown syrup
Salted peanuts (I use raw peanuts that I roast in the oven for 5 minutes.)
Make popcorn and dump into large bowl. Shake and shake and then scoop off the top fluffy kernels and leave the old maids in the bottom of the bowl. (MY MOM DID THIS.)
Boil sugar, butter and syrup for 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Pour over popcorn and peanuts and mix well. Spread in a cookie sheet and bake in a 200° oven. Mix it around now and then and let cool, store in a loosely covered container and enjoy…
Merry Christmas everyone!