Caramel corn, with a scoop
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|Popcorn, caramel (based on sugar or molasses)|
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Caramel corn is an American confection made of popcorn coated with a sugar or molasses based caramel candy shell. Typically a sugar solution or syrup is made and heated until it browns and becomes thick, producing a caramelized candy syrup. This hot candy is then mixed with popped popcorn, and allowed to cool. Sometimes a candy thermometer is used, as making caramel is time-consuming and requires skill to make well without burning the sugar. The process creates a sweet flavored, crunchy snack food or treat. Some varieties, after coating with the candy syrup, are baked in an oven to crisp the mixture. Mixes of caramel corn sometimes contain nuts, such as peanuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews.
The combination of caramel and corn dates back at least as far as the 1890s with the strong molasses flavor of Cracker Jack, an early version of which was introduced at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The lighter, sweet but un-caramelized kettle corn, may be a North American Colonial predecessor to caramel corn.
There are many commercial brands and forms of caramel corn available, such as Cracker Jack, Fiddle Faddle, Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs, and Crunch 'n Munch. In grocery stores, at cinemas, and convenience stores, pre-bagged caramel corn made locally may also be sold. The Maryland based Fisher's Popcorn and Chicago based Nuts on Clark are examples of specialty caramel corn and popcorn companies.
Other sweet flavored popcorn
Some types of candy coated popcorn are made with a white sugar-based candy coating rather than the traditional caramelized versions, for a lighter flavor. Other natural or artificial flavorings are sometimes added to this hot, clear candy syrup before it's put on popcorn, such as: strawberry, watermelon, coconut, green apple, chocolate, or blueberry. Though many more often exist in specialized popcorn candy shops. These flavors of candy-coated corn can often be found in candy shops and specialized stores within malls and milk bars.
- Cretors, the Chicago company who invented the first commercial popcorn machine
- Kettle corn, the sweetened popcorn with a lighter, thinner (in both flavor and color) sweet coating
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