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Author Notes: This bar snack is the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Freshly popped corn gets a sweet shell of maple glaze spiked with Jack Daniels and then bacon and crispy sage is added to bring a salty and unexpected earthiness. I like to serve it at cocktail parties or late nights lazing by the fire. You could omit the booze and bacon, but why would you want to? —Brita
Makes 20 servings
- 6 slices bacon
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup unpopped popcorn
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup whiskey
- 8 leaves fresh sage (stemmed)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar or "sugar in the raw"
- Preheat the oven to 250ºF. In a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until a majority of the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve the bacon drippings. Add the reserved drippings, plus 2 Tablespoons of the vegetable oil, to a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the popcorn to the pot and cover it. Once you hear the first kernel pop, remove the pot from the heat for 1 minute. Return the covered pot to the heat, shaking it over the flame until all of the kernels have popped. (It may take up to 5 minutes for all of the popcorn to pop.) Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl, sprinkle in the cooked bacon pieces, tossing to combine, and set the bowl aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup whiskey and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Then allow the mixture to boil, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and let cool for 8- 10 minutes
- using a small spoon, drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn, stirring to coat the popcorn and bacon. If popcorn starts to deflate let caramel cool a few minutes more.
- Transfer the coated popcorn into two 9x13-inch shallow baking pans lined with parchment paper. Bake the caramel corn for 40 minutes to hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
- While the corn is baking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan, and quickly fry the sage leaves in batches. Remove the leaves when they turn a deep green let cool on a paper towel.
- Remove the caramel corn from the oven and spread it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Break the sage leaves in to small pieces and add to the corn along with a fresh sprinkling of turbinado sugar. Cool completely before breaking it into pieces and serving.