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Homemade Cracker Jack

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Homemade Cracker Jack is a nostalgic and delicious treat that combines sweet caramel-coated popcorn with crunchy peanuts. Perfect for snacking or as a fun homemade gift, this recipe is sure to be a hit with both kids and adults. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of making Homemade Cracker Jack, provide helpful cooking notes, and offer variations to suit different tastes and dietary preferences.

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Ingredients

  • 2 (3.29 oz) packages natural popcorn, popped
  • ⅔ cup Spanish peanuts
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Popcorn

  1. Pop the Popcorn:
    • Pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Once popped, remove any unpopped kernels.
  2. Mix with Peanuts:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the popped popcorn and Spanish peanuts. Set aside.

Step 2: Make the Caramel Sauce

  1. Melt the Butter:
    • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, and Molasses:
    • Stir in the brown sugar, dark corn syrup, and molasses. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
  3. Boil the Mixture:
    • Once the mixture is boiling, stop stirring and allow it to boil for 4-5 minutes without stirring, until it reaches a deep amber color.
  4. Add Salt and Baking Soda:
    • Remove the saucepan from heat and quickly stir in the salt and baking soda. The mixture will foam up slightly.

Step 3: Coat the Popcorn

  1. Pour Caramel over Popcorn:
    • Immediately pour the hot caramel sauce over the popcorn and peanuts. Use a large spatula to gently toss and coat the popcorn and peanuts evenly with the caramel sauce.

Step 4: Bake the Cracker Jack

  1. Preheat Oven:
    • Preheat your oven to 250°F (120°C).
  2. Spread on Baking Sheets:
    • Spread the coated popcorn and peanuts in an even layer on two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  3. Bake:
    • Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even coating and prevent burning.

Step 5: Cool and Serve

  1. Cool the Cracker Jack:
    • Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the Cracker Jack cool completely on the baking sheets.
  2. Break into Pieces:
    • Once cooled, break the Cracker Jack into pieces and store in an airtight container.
  3. Serve:
    • Enjoy your Homemade Cracker Jack as a sweet and crunchy snack!

Cook Notes and Variations

Cook Notes:

  • Stirring: Make sure to stir the caramel sauce continuously until it reaches a boil to prevent burning.
  • Baking: Stirring the Cracker Jack every 15 minutes during baking helps to ensure even coating and prevents sticking.

Variations:

  • Chocolate Drizzle:
    • After the Cracker Jack has cooled, drizzle melted chocolate over the top for a chocolatey twist.
  • Spicy Cracker Jack:
    • Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the caramel sauce for a spicy kick.
  • Nut Mix:
    • Replace the Spanish peanuts with a mix of your favorite nuts such as almonds, cashews, or pecans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I use light corn syrup instead of dark corn syrup?

Yes, you can use light corn syrup, but dark corn syrup adds a deeper, richer flavor to the caramel.

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2. How do I store Homemade Cracker Jack?

Store the Cracker Jack in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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3. Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yes, you can make the Cracker Jack a day or two ahead of time and store it in an airtight container until ready to serve.

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4. Can I use microwave popcorn?

Yes, you can use microwave popcorn. Just make sure to use a natural or lightly salted variety and remove any unpopped kernels.

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5. Can I add other mix-ins to the Cracker Jack?

Yes, you can add other mix-ins such as dried fruit, pretzels, or candy pieces for added flavor and texture.

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Homemade Cracker Jack is a delicious and nostalgic treat that’s perfect for any occasion. With its sweet caramel coating and crunchy peanuts, this snack is sure to be a hit with both kids and adults. Whether you’re making it for a party, as a gift, or just for fun, this recipe is easy to follow and full of delicious flavors. Give this Homemade Cracker Jack recipe a try and enjoy a classic and crunchy treat. Happy snacking!