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Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls

I remember visiting my cousins in north Alabama during the Halloween season and getting homemade popcorn balls tinted purple and orange. This sticky treat was the perfect combination of sweet and salty flavors. They are also lots of fun to make. This recipe comes from the Auburn University Cookbook published in 1962.


2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups of water

1/3 teaspoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla

5 quarts of popped popcorn

1 box of assorted food coloring

You will also need a candy thermometer and we highly recommend getting a box of disposable food safe gloves. This will prevent the food coloring from staining on your hands when you form the popcorn balls.


1. Pop your popcorn on the stove or use an air popper. You can use microwave popcorn but I recommend the other methods for better results. Once the corn is popped set it aside to cool.

2. Boil the sugar, syrup, salt, and water until the temperature reaches the hard ball stage. (250°) Put a small drop of syrup in a cup of cold water. It's ready when the drop forms a small hard ball.

3. Add white vinegar and vanilla, continue to boil until the mixture reaches the soft crack stage. (264°) If you are doing more than one color, place a separate large bowl on the counter for each color. (Do not use a plastic bowl.) Have your bottle of food coloring next to each bowl with the lid already off.

4. Pour equal amounts of corn syrup mixture into each bowl and add 2 drops of food coloring to each bowl. (Be careful, this mixture will burn you.) Stir the mixture and continue to add one drop at a time until you reach the desired color you want. Be sure to use a different spoon for each bowl to avoid mixing the colors.

5. Divide the popcorn between the bowls and use the spoon to turn the corn so it will be evenly coated.

6. Put on your food safe gloves and spray them with cooking spray. (Remember this mixture is very hot so be careful before you touch it.) This will help keep the popcorn from sticking to your gloves as your form the popcorn balls. It's a good idea to use a fresh pair of gloves for each different color of popcorn ball.

7. Let the popcorn balls stand on a cookie sheet until they cool down and become brittle.

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