Sunday, October 18, 2015

History of Popcorn Balls, Recipes and Memories

History of Popcorn Balls
Popcorn balls (popped kernels stuck together with a sugary "glue") were hugely popular around the turn of the 20th century, but their popularity has since waned. Popcorn balls are still served in some places as a traditional Halloween treat.

Popcorn balls were a fixture at many Halloween parties during the 1950s, a time when Treat or Treaters regularly enjoyed homemade treats rather than packaged store-bought candies. Chances are that many of you would receive at least one on your "Trick or Treating" rounds in your neighborhood, as well as fresh baked cookies.
One legend from Nebraska say's that the popcorn ball is actually a product of the Nebraska weather. It supposedly invented itself during the "Year of the Striped Weather" which came between the years of the "Big Rain" and the "Great Heat" where the weather was both hot and rainy. There was a mile strip of scorching sunshine and then a mile strip of rain. On one farm, there were both kinds of weather. One day in August, it rained so hard on the farm that sorghum syrup leaked right from the grasses and drained into the nearby cornfield (the cornfield was in a valley). The syrup flowed down the hill into the popped corn and rolled it into great balls with some of them hundreds of feet high and looked like big tennis balls at a distance. You never see any of them now because the grasshoppers ate them all up in one day on July 21, 1874.
Popcorn balls dated back to the mid-19th century. New York cookbook author E.F. Haskell included the recipe in her Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia first published in 1861. The following is one of those old, and vintage recipes.
Popcorn balls:
12 oz molasses
1 stick butter
1 cup popcorn, un-popped
Vegetable oil
Pour the popcorn kernels into a large, deep pan. Cover lightly with vegetable oil. Cover and cook on high heat until popped. His should yield 4 quarts of popped popcorn. (Try to remove un-popped kernels as best you can.)
In a small saucepan, bring the molasses and butter to a boil (about 249 degree; check with a candy thermometer).
In a large bowl, pour the syrup over the popcorn and mix together so the popcorn is sufficiently coated. With your hands, form tennis ball-sized sphere.
Let set, and wrap individually with plastic wrap. Yields 16 balls.
Alternate Recipe:
Popcorn Balls
3 quarts plain popped corn (about 1/3 cup kernels)
1/4 cup butter 10 oz. bag marshmallows
food coloring (optional)
Put popped corn in a large bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter and marshmallows in a stove top pot, stirring constantly. When they are melted, take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool until it can be touched. If you like, stir in a few drops of food coloring.
Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the melted mixture into the popcorn. Next, butter your hands and work quickly to form popcorn balls. Place balls on waxed paper to cool.
After the balls are cool, you may use warm corn syrup to stick gum drops or other candy decorations to the popcorn balls. The popcorn balls may be stored in sandwich bags. This makes enough for about 15 two-inch balls.
These popcorn balls are great anytime, but as you know, they are especially fun to enjoy at Halloween or Christmas time. It is up to you to keep the tradition going! Let your children, or grandchildren help you make some popcorn balls and give them the one of memories you loved so much. They are so easy to make and so very delicious!
Sometimes the oldest recipes give the best memories!

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