My husband is a hunter. Third generation, if not more (he used his grandfather’s rifle for a number of years, in fact). And, while you hear many reports in the news about the gun-toting, beer-guzzling, trouble-mongering fools who get themselves in trouble or seriously injured, they are in fact a minority – a noisy, hot mess of a minority. This group of hunters is not among that minority.
Every autumn my husband, his brothers, and another family who has hunted alongside my husband’s family for more than a generation, head north to a old camper and bring odds and ends of food to share with the group. This year, everyone is to bring a piece of meat to grill, a side item, and any snacks they may want. As he enjoys eating good food, the hubby has brought interesting tidbits to share over the years. Like the one time he packed ramekins of creme brulee and my kitchen torch so the party could enjoy a nice, warm crust of burnt sugar on top of their custards. Or the batch of Choffee Chip cookies (chocolate chips and toffee chips, rolled into the Toll House batter recipe).
This year will be unseasonably warm for the hunting opener. There are pretty good odds that he will come home with a nice tan and little else in the way of waterfowl. I wanted to pack a treat that wouldn’t be adversely affected by warmer temperatures, or send folks to the hospital with a case of food poisoning. And so the idea of Turtle Caramel Corn came floating to the top of the consciousness.
We were first introduced to this recipe about a year ago. Think of your standard caramel corn, with more chunks of caramel thrown in for good measure, substituting pecans for peanuts, and sprinkling some milk chocolate chips in the final cooking process to go all melty and lovey-dovey among the clumps of caramel corn. After making a couple of batches, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with the process, and figured it wouldn’t be too much of an effort to pull this together on a weeknight.
Without further ado, I give you…
Turtle Caramel Corn
(adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)
- 16 cups popped popcorn – try the 94% fat-free Kettle Corn for a little boost of salty-sweetness.
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1.5 cups brown sugar
- 0.5 cups light corn syrup
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 0.5 tsp. baking soda
- 16 caramels, unwrapped and chopped into four pieces
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped unsalted pecans
Preheat oven to 250. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick baking spray and set aside.
Find the largest bowl you have in the house; combine the popcorn and nuts in this bowl and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, sugars, corn syrup, lemon juice and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugars melt together.
Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently until the mixture reaches the card crack stage (300F on a candy thermometer), about 6 to 9 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The syrup will bubble and foam when the baking soda is added; simply stir until it subsides.
Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture and stir with a large wooden spoon until the glaze completely coats all the popcorn and nuts.
Divide the caramel corn between the prepared baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; using a heatproof spatula, stir and flip the caramel corn. Bake for another 20 minutes. Stir and flip again. Before returning to the oven for its’ final bake, sprinkle in the caramel pieces and chocolate chips. Make sure they are on the caramel corn and not the baking sheet. Bake for another 10 minutes, and stir once more to help the chocolate and caramel pieces melt over more of the popcorn.
Let the mixture cool completely before storing in a tightly covered container. It will be good for up to one week, if it lasts that long.