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How to Make Popcorn Balls
When growing up, one of my favorite homemade Halloween treats were the crunchy, slightly tacky popcorn ball. I liked them because they tasted good, but also because they were a snack that lasted. It took work biting into the crisp sphere, and the fiber took time to chew. Though no one was thinking about fiber at the time.
Legend of the Popcorn Ball
In the book America Eats the author shares the legend of the popcorn ball that dates back to 1874. The story behind this legend takes place in the state of Nebraska on a day when the popcorn ball invented itself. That's right, legend has it that this treat created itself.
Once upon a time during the summer, one farm in Nebraska experienced extreme heat and rain. The sun blazed on a cornfield set on a hill, and it got so hot the corn popped right on the stalk. A heavy rain followed and the rain washed syrup from the nearby cane field into the corn field and…you guessed it. The popped corn rolled into balls.
How to Make Popcorn Balls
Popcorn balls don't have to be limited to Halloween. They are a fun treat to make with the kids as a yummy craft project that doesn't take long to complete. When you do this, don't worry about trying to make perfect spheres.
Another popular use for popcorn balls is to add food coloring and add them as edible decorations at baby showers and other party venues. Back in the day, they were even used as edible Christmas tree ornaments.
The trick is to mold the coated corn into balls before it sets. Think Rice Krispies Treats. The sweet sticky ingredients set fairly quickly.
Popcorn Ball Recipe
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup margarine
- 3 teaspoons cold water
- 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-1/3 cups miniature marshmallows
- 27 cups plain popped popcorn (do not use salted)
- Combine corn syrup, margarine, cold water, powdered sugar and marshmallows in a saucepan Cook over medium heat and stir until ingredients come to a boil. Turn off heat and fold popcorn into the mixture until popcorn is coated.
- To prevent sticking to your fingers oil hands with a few drops of vegetable oil or butter. Work popcorn mixture into balls before it cools. Place on waxed paper.
- Wrap individual popcorn balls in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
(Makes about 27)
Chocolate Popcorn Balls
This recipe is a little more complicated, but the end result is worth it!
- 4 quarts popcorn (keep warm in the oven)
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup corn syrup
- 3 tbls. butter
- 3 squares chocolate, grated
- Cook sugar, water and corn syrup for 5 minutes. Add butter and grated chocolate and cook to hard crack stage. (a few drops in cold water will crackle when done).
- Pour over warm popcorn and immediately form into balls using buttered fingers.
- Place on waxed paper to cool thoroughly.
- Wrap with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
Consider Popping Corn on the Stovetop
As you prepare your ingredients, consider making popcorn on the stovetop. I talked to a 12-year-old yesterday who had never heard of such a thing. I have plans for her to come over to popcorn and of course make some popcorn balls. I think we'll try making them smaller, for an easy to eat treat.