I had to agree to a verbal NDA before my dad would share Winnie’s Caramel Corn recipe with me. Winifred (Winnie) is my great-great-aunt on my dad’s side. She and Uncle Dorman Hundling owned the Capitol Theatre (movies) in Newton, Iowa from the 1960’s through the 80’s. Her caramel corn recipe is a family heirloom. Few know the recipe and for the purposes of this year’s Super Bowl, my father agreed to bring me into the caramel corn circle of trust.
The first line of his email with the recipe read: “Here is the secret family recipe for Winnie’s Caramel Corn. No blogging the recipe!” His legal background must have prompted him to clearly outline this in writing.
I signed up last week to bring “dessert” to tonight’s festivities. And by “signed up,” I mean Patrick actually sent me an email and asked me to put my name next to what dish I wanted to bring. In P’s mind, it wasn’t enough that “we” were already bringing a pork butt and a brisket.
Given the “family” theme of the 2013 Super Bowl (if you aren’t into sports, the two coaches in this year’s event are brothers), I felt it only appropriate to make something that reminded me of family, thus the request for the coveted caramel corn recipe. Caramel corn is dessert, right? Well, regardless of your answer, it is tonight.
I’ve seen my dad make this recipe more times than I can count. He’s the caramel corn master. I won’t pretend the task didn’t intimidate me. I even bought extra supplies in anticipation of failure. I know, I really should have more confidence in myself. I’m working on it.
The first half of the recipe is to prepare the popcorn. That’s all I can say. During this phase, my neurotic tendencies reared their ugly head. Why is it that not all of the kernels pop? It drives me nuts. To avoid going mad, I sifted through all of the popcorn and picked out every un-popped kernel. Nothing is worse than tossing a handful of popcorn into your mouth and biting down on an un-popped kernel.
Can you say broken tooth? No thanks.
After tediously removing the potential tooth-breakers, I moved on to the second phase. The caramel. This is the most precarious phase and I managed to escape with only a small burn on my left pinky after accidently mistaking it for popcorn and coating it in scalding caramel. And that’s all I can say about the caramel. Isn’t vague fun?
I realize my recount is sounding rather simple. I’d like to state for the record that it is, in fact, not simple, but since I can’t share any details you will just have to trust me.
The final phase is the cooling of the corn. After an extended, undisclosed period of time, the caramel goodness is ready for tasting.
I should also mention that Winnie’s Caramel Corn is magical. The secret combination of the secret ingredients forms a secret super power of irresistibility. Even P isn’t a match against the lure of the caramel corn.
During my caramel corn cooking, P’s attention was focused on his own food responsibilities, the aforementioned pork butt and brisket. Anyone else start hearing “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” when you read pork butt? Just me? Ok.
P’s morning began at 5:30 am today when he quietly tiptoed out of our room to go meet up with Esther. For those suddenly concerned, Esther is his smoker grill. Yes, he named his Big Green Egg. She and I have an agreement, so we’re cool. Going on 8 hours now, he has fought against the elements, sleep-deprivation and the hated meat plateau. I learned today that the meat plateau is when the meat reaches a certain temperature and then remains at that temperature for an unpredictable length of time. According to P, this is when the meat begins to break down leading to mouth-watering tenderness. It’s a necessary evil in the meat smoking experience.
It so happened that the onset of today’s meat plateau coincided with the completion of the caramel corn. My weary husband wandered into the kitchen looking for respite. He isn’t one to typically like sweets. In fact, when I mentioned I would make caramel corn, he didn’t exactly jump for joy. But when he reached down to pull a chunk of gooey corn off the cooling station, I wasn’t going to stop him. A handful of the magic caramel corn and his frown turned upside down. Seven handfuls later and he is maintaining good spirits in spite of the lingering meat plateau.
I’m ok that it was the meat phenomena that drove him to my caramel corn, and not necessarily the desire to try what I slaved over. I can deal with that. I just hope he saves some for everyone else.
I apologize that I cannot share Winnie’s Caramel Corn recipe with you, but some things have to remain in the family. If you’d like to make a batch on your own, click here for a handful of recipes from The Food Network.