Halloween: Yummy Popcorn Ball Recipe

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The popcorn ball recipe we use was perfected by my mother when I was growing up. The elementary school I attended, Colfax Elementary in North Hollywood, California, used to throw a Halloween Carnival every year. It was one of those old fashioned type of carnivals that the PTA put on. They had all kinds of activities that you bought tickets to trade for doing an activity. My favorite booths were "Spin Art" and "Goldfish Toss." I loved winning a goldfish, bringing it home, and guessing how long it would live. And of course, there was the famous PTA Bake Sale—a delectable array of homemade goodies for all to purchase and consume. My mom's contribution to the bake sale was her popcorn balls. The popcorn balls were one of the most popular items and would sell out quickly. After a few years, my mom not only offered the popcorn balls to sell, but she also sold her recipe for something like a dollar for every copy.

popcorn ball recipe

Later, when I attended Walter Reed Junior High (also in North Hollywood) and I was taking the mandatory cooking classes that were offered, I bragged to my cooking teacher Ms. Dragoo/Miss Nuccio/Mrs. Harlow (she was married/divorced/and remarried during my three year tenure at the school and I LOVED her) about how wonderful and different my mom's popcorn balls were. Ms. Draggo/Miss Nuccio/Mrs. Harlow had my mom come in and demonstrate the popcorn balls for all the cooking classes and the recipe became a staple at the school for years after.
When I started my family, of course I had to carry on with the popcorn ball tradition. My kids loved eating them and giving them away to their special friends and teachers. Today, even though there are no kids around the house to eat them, I still enjoy making the time-honored popcorn balls and giving most of them away to very grateful recipients.
Whether you have your own recipe, or are looking for a new family tradition, I invite you to try Pattie Coleman's recipe.

Pattie Coleman's Famous Popcorn Ball Recipe


Begin with 2 quarts popped corn. Put in a large tray or bowl.
(Fun Fact: the pan I use belonged to my grandmother and is the exact one my mom used in making the popcorn balls for our family when I was growing up. Just keeping the family tradition thing going all the way, if you know what I mean).
To make caramel, combine in a saucepan:
  • 1/2 cup clear, Karo syrup
  • 1-1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cubes margarine (you could use butter but I like the taste of margarine better)
Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes a light caramel color.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour caramel over popped corn and coat well. I like to stir everything around with a large, plastic spoon.
Form the popcorn balls when the mixture is still hot. You will need to grease your hands with butter to prevent them from burning and blistering while you make balls.
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Place the balls on waxed paper to cool.
In the olden days, you would wrap the balls in waxed paper to give away. Most years, I used orange cellophane to wrap around the balls and tied the cellophane at the top with green curling ribbon so that the popcorn balls resembled a pumpkin. Finding orange cellophane isn't as easy as it used to be, so lately I just put each ball in a Halloween gift bag and use either a silver twisty tie or curling ribbon to tie at the top. Either way, the popcorn balls look pretty festive and inviting. Yum. Yum.
What is your favorite fall treat?
Caryn Payzant writes the blog, The Mid Life Guru and is a public speaker, wife, mother, "grammie," and school board member. Since turning 50 in 2010, she has committed herself to using the experience and wisdom gained from her first 50 years as a springboard to her next 50. Along the way, she is sharing that wisdom with others. On her blog, Caryn writes about healthy living, education, her home life as a mom and grandma, and inspiring stories from women who make a difference. Caryn currently resides in California with her husband of 32 years. 
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