According to legend, popcorn balls were originated when an unusually heavy rain in Nebraska washed the sugar out of sugar cane, high heat cooked it into syrup and popped the corn right off the ears in a huge field. The two combined and the popcorn ball was born. Somehow, I find this tale to be less than believable. It is much easier for me to believe that someone, having combined a salty-sweet syrup and/or caramel with popcorn, realized that it would be much easier to sell and package when shaped into balls. Though they started selling them at fairs, the popcorn balls make popular holiday treats because they can double as an ornament for the tree. Personally, I'd rather eat them.
I wanted to make my own, but somehow I never seemed to have quite enough time. I also kept eating the unformed popcorn. Instead, I ordered a few from The Humphrey Company, which has been making popcorn balls for over 100 years. The plain ones are crunchy, and a nice combination of sweet and salty, much like kettle corn. And I'll never get tired of the caramel popcorn balls. These make a nice snack and are also a great choice for a stocking-stuffer with a retro, holiday feel.
[Photo by Nicole Weston]