This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas treats that really is an anytime treat. WARNING: once you start eating this you may curse the day that you read this post and decided that it was a good one to try. This is like the crack of popcorn. Best if eaten with others to reduce the likelihood that you eat the whole thing.
I was also excited to find that I could make this for my son by using a soy-free vegan spread (butter substitute). It was still really good.
7 qt (28 c) Plain popped popcorn
2 c Dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 c Brown sugar
1/2 c Light corn syrup
1 t Salt
1 c Butter
1/2 t Baking soda
1 t Vanilla extract
Put the popped popcorn into two greased baking pans (I like to use disposable foil pans or roaster pans). Add nuts to the popcorn if you would like.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250. In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt. Stir to mix over medium heat, bringing to a boil. Then boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
Once you've removed from the pan from heat, add the vanilla and baking soda. This will cause the liquid to bubble and expand. While hot, pour the mixture on the popcorn and toss to coat.
Bake for a total of 60 minutes while stirring every 15 minutes which will make the caramel distribute more evenly. Put parchment or wax paper on the counter and spread out the hot caramel corn on it to cool. Immediately use a spatula or spoon to break up the caramel corn into bite-sized pieces. Let it cool and then store in airtight containers or resealable bags. Wrap it up and it makes a great gift for teachers, bus drivers, or friends.