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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
tablespoons vegetable oil
cup unpopped popcorn
cup unsalted butter
cup maple syrup
cups brown sugar
leaves fresh sage (stemmed)
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.