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Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls


5 quarts popped corn**
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C water
1/4 t salt
1/2 C light corn syrup
1 t cider vinegar
1 t vanilla


Butter sides of a saucepan. Inside combine the rest of the ingredients, except the vanilla. Cook briskly to hard-ball stage (250 degrees). Add vanilla. Pour slowly over hot popped corn, stirring with a large wooden or metal spoon just to mix thoroughly. Butter hands lightly; shape balls, making them compact and round. Makes 15-20 balls.

**Yes, you can still buy plain old cheap popping corn. Heat oil in a pan, and pour in just enough corn to cover the bottom in a single layer. Cover pan and heat on high, shaking pan across flame or burner until corn begins to pop and comes to a stop. Take lid off immediately so it stays crisp. Transfer to a large pan or bowl. Keep popcorn hot and crisp in a slow oven, 300 degrees.

Whether or not you have more snow coming and can make igloos like my kids, Hannah and Brooks, did in St. Louis and London, have fun making these popcorn balls. They're really delicious any time of year and pull the family or friends together in an unusual project that's like playing "hot potato, hot potato"! They are NOT difficult. It takes time to bring the sugar water solution to the proper temperature, but it's so worth it for the fun. Invest in a candy thermometer for this. After balls are made and laid out on wax paper strips, wash your hands and wrap popcorn balls in plastic wrap, or even easier, plastic sandwich bags. You can tie them with a tiny ribbon for gifts. They taste best the first day and are still ok after three days.

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