TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Popcorn Balls | THE NIBBLE Blog - Adventures In The World Of Fine Food TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Popcorn Balls – THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food
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TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Popcorn Balls

The oldest popcorn known to date—actual ears of corn—was discovered in a cave in New Mexico, and carbon-dated to be more than 5,600 years old. It was not eaten as a snack food by early Americans, but was popped and then pounded into meal that was mixed with water and cooked.

Fast-forward several thousand years: The early Colonists ate popcorn as a breakfast cereal, with milk and a sweetener. (Think puffed corn cereals like those from Arrowhead Mills and Nature’s Path, among others, not to mention Kellogg’s Corn Pops.)

In the 18th century, after the corn harvest, rendered fat would be thrown into a cast iron pot over an open fire. When the fat was hot, farmers would toss in corn kernels, a little molasses or other sweetener, and then wait for the corn to pop into a sweet, hot treat.

By the 1840s, corn popping had become a popular recreational activity in the U.S. Popcorn balls, the kernels stuck together with a sugar syrup, were hugely popular around the turn of the 20th century, both for eating and for holiday decorations (they were hung with ribbons from Christmas trees).

With the availability of bagged popcorn brands, popcorn balls began to wane, appearing mostly in the hoiday season from Halloween through Christmas.

Here’s the full history of popcorn.

   
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Homemade cranberry popcorn balls for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.
 

Popcorn is a better-for-you snack. Plain popcorn is loaded with whole grains, fiber and antioxidants.

Of course, when you add butter, salt and sugar, it adds less-better-for-you ingredients. But compared to other sweet and salty snacks, it’s the winner.

So consider these popcorn balls a better option for holiday snacking.

 

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Plain popcorn is a terrific snack: whole grain, high in fiber and low in calories. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE
  RECIPE: CRANBERRY POPCORN BALLS

You can serve these from a platter or a serving bowl, or wrap individually in cellophane and tie with a ribbon for a party favor or stocking stuffer. Add a name tag to create a combination place setting and take-home favor.

Ingredients For 18 Popcorn Balls

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, slightly mashed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except popcorn, in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and cook to 250°F on a candy thermometer. The mixture will bubble up in the pan, so watch it carefully to keep the mixture from boiling over.

    2. POUR slowly over the hot popcorn and mix until the corn is well coated. Let it stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture can easily be formed into balls.

    3. SPRAY your hands with a cooking spray (or use butter) hands and form the popcorn into 3-inch balls.
     
    ANOTHER HOLIDAY POPCORN RECIPE

    If you’ve got sage left over from the stuffing or other recipe, make this sage popcorn recipe.

      




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