The Best Chicago Style Popcorn

Before I get to the recipe for literally the best Chicago Style homemade popcorn I have ever made (and total crack to both Tony and me, so I won’t be making this for a long time), I have to give a shout out to some more of my blog friends who sent me Christmas cards:

If you haven’t read Ally from Sweet & Savory, you are missing out.  First of all, she has two of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen.  She’s actually not only made my Baja Fresh salsa, but before her daughter was born, she actually sold it at her local farmers market.  Open-mouthed smile

And she makes some delicious stuff!  This recipe has been printed out and sitting on my desk since November!  Must make these biscuits soon!

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She was sweet enough not only to send me a family Christmas card, but also her family newsletter – I feel like one of her family!  And she lives in Iowa, we keep talking about doing a meet up between our two cities – hopefully this summer we can make that a reality!  This picture of her two kids holding hands while walking to the pumpkin patch is priceless!  Thanks Ally!

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Then my new blog friend Louise, who at 65 was the oldest participant in my 171 mileage challenge, and she did it all on her recumbent bike at home!   She is also a talented artist, you can find her handmade products here.  She sent me the nicest card, and wouldn’t you know it, a snowman was on the cover!

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I love it Louise – thank you so much!

And Beth from 990 Square, I think I’ve been blog friends with her since late 2009.  She’s a runner, awesome baker, even got her husband Noel to catch the running bug!   She and her husband love to travel, love the beach, and if I ever travel to the East Coast, she’s one of the first people I’d like to lunch with. Open-mouthed smile

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And I think she likes wine as much as me based on the wine tours she’s gone on – thanks for the card B!  (Yep, I call her B) Open-mouthed smile

But I was so surprised when we got home yesterday and there was a package from Aimee!   She’s also a runner, and even through injury managed to persevere and went to the Philadelphia marathon all by herself.  She beat her previous time by 10 minutes!!

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That takes a lot of guts to do a race like that all by yourself – you should be proud of yourself Aimee!

So she sent me a bag of holiday loot!  Check it out!

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She put notes on everything, which was so cute – I loved this motivational note pad called “Pep Talk!”

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I have a feeling that the TO and FROM are both going to have my name on it!  Thank you so much Aimee for your friendship and generosity! Open-mouthed smile

Blog reader Wendy left a comment asking if I had posted my Chicago Mix Popcorn recipe on the blog, and even though that was my signature food gift this year, I realized I never posted it because I almost always made it at night and my florescent kitchen lighting is awful!

Of course, Chicagoans know that Garrett’s Popcorn is one of the best popcorn places in the City.  In fact, whenever I am in the train station, I am hard pressed not to pick up a small bag of their Chicago Mix, which is half cheddar popcorn and half caramel corn.

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I have to tell you, before sending the actual food boxes to mine and Tony’s family, I made A LOT of batches until I came up with the right combination, even so far as using the cheese mixture in a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese to make the cheddar popcorn.

In the end, I went with Nacho Cheddar popcorn made from this brand – although yesterday’s version I used the bacon cheddar flavor which I didn’t know existed!

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I’ve found it in the popcorn aisle in Target and at Jewel – each one sold for $2.25 cents.   After several batches, Tony and I both agreed that we liked 2/3 cheddar popcorn to 1/3 caramel corn. That sweet/salty balance was perfect.  Thanks for being such a great taste tester Tony!

Chicago Mix Popcorn

  • 3/4 cup of unpopped popcorn
  • 1/8-1/4 cup oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)
  • 1/3 cup popcorn seasoning (about 1/2 of the bottle)
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

I don’t add any salt to the caramel mixture, because there is enough salt in the cheddar seasoning.

Tony was the one who taught me how to make popcorn.  The secret is to use a mesh top, the ones that you use to keep splatters down when frying.

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That way, the steam escapes and you get super crunchy popcorn every time.  Start by adding your popcorn and oil to your pot, and heat over medium-high heat.  As soon as you hear the first popcorn pop, remove from heat, and let the kernals “cook” off the heat for 5 minutes.  Return the popcorn to the burner, now turn on high, don’t start to shake it until the popcorn stops to pop, then shake vigorously – this goes by super fast because all the kernals are ready to pop – as soon as her can count 4 seconds between the pops, remove from heat.

So I took 2/3 of the popcorn and sprinkled it with the bacon cheddar seasoning.

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The white popcorn will soon be caramel corn.  This makes A LOT of popcorn – that silver bowl is 13 quarts!

For the white popcorn, before adding the caramel to it, make sure to take out any unpopped kernels, you don’t want to break someone’s teeth when they bit into kernel studded popcorn!

Making caramel corn is super easy, you don’t need a candy thermometer at all.  You just need to look for the color you want – my only caveat is to tell you that once you see the right color, move quickly, because it can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Melt the butter in a pan.  Add sugar and water and mix well.  Leave it alone now, no stirring is necessary.  It will start to bubble and it gets to the right color in about 10 minutes.  You can walk away for the first few minutes, but I wouldn’t stray too far.  This is how it looks after 5 minutes.

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Another five minutes, and it gets this caramel color.

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Quickly remove from heat, add the 1 teaspoon of baking soda, mix well and toss quickly with your cooked popcorn.  Try to cover every kernel when this mixture is hot because it dries fairly quickly.  Usually mine is one giant ball of caramel, and I take a long serving fork to break it into pieces.

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Once cooled, I mix the two together.  And try not to eat it all in one sitting!

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That bowl is probably 1/5 of the whole batch.  When I gave it away as gifts, this batch easily filled 4 gallon ziploc bags, with some leftover.   Tony and I admit we wish we knew about the bacon cheddar seasoning, because yesterday’s batch ended up being the best one – a bit smokey, a hint of salty bacon, then mixed with the caramel, just …YUM!

So Wendy, thank you for your patience in writing this recipe up!  It would be a hit for any popcorn lover in your world.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my Top 12 Recipes of the Year, then on Tuesday, the dreaded first Weigh In of the Year!  Confused smile

Enjoy your Sunday!