Maybe it's the college football parties, the trick-or-treating, or the endless grazing before Thanksgiving dinner, but snacks and fall just seem to go together. Popcorn is a very old harvest snack, prepared in the New World long before Columbus ever got here.
This sweet popcorn may actually improve on the original while using yet one more New World food - the peanut.
This recipe for peanut butter popcorn, sweetened with honey, belongs for me in memories of my family. This was our favorite movie night treat, a quick snack with sweet and gooey peanut butter coating every kernel. I vastly prefer it to crunchier caramel corn. If you leave the popcorn in a covered bowl all night, the popcorn gets a little softer and the kernels and peanut butter meld together like soft, slightly salty taffy with a crunch in the middle.
Peanut Butter Popcorn
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (should be free of added sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Have a clean paper shopping bag or oversized mixing bowl ready.
Heat a 4-quart heavy pan over medium heat and film the bottom with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the popcorn, shake to distribute, then put a lid on the pan, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. When the first kernel pops, put the lid on all the way. As the popcorn starts popping, shake vigorously to make sure the kernels are distributed evenly. When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, take the pan off the heat.
Pour the popcorn into the paper bag or bowl to cool, and attempt to leave any unpopped kernels behind in the pan. (Coated with peanut butter caramel, the unpopped kernels are a serious tooth hazard). Lightly salt the popcorn to taste.
Mix the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the peanut butter. Stir vigorously until all the peanut butter is melted, then mix in the vanilla.
Immediately pour the peanut butter caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until it's all coated. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
• This recipe will also cover one standard bag of microwave popcorn, so you can substitute that for the stovetop popcorn if you wish.
• This keeps well overnight. If you want the gooeyness of freshly made popcorn, though, warm a bowl of leftover popcorn in 15-second bursts in the microwave until slightly warm and soft.
• As noted in the comments, some people prefer adding something spicy, like Sriracha, in lieu of the vanilla.
(Images: Faith Durand)
Re-edited from post originally published on November 10, 2006