Ever since I first made apple cider caramels last fall, they have stuck in my mind, prompting me to find even more things to do with them. I put them inside cookies (yeessssss) but surely we can’t stop there.  My girl Tara recently made some insane looking crumb bars using them. Whoa. Being the caramel corn fiend that I am, it was only a matter of time before this happened – apple cider caramel corn. Just as with the caramels themselves, a large amount of cider is cooked down to a concentrated reduction that adds that curiously irresistible apple flavor to the caramel itself. A touch of classic apple pie spices further enhances the flavor. Even in the midst of all the Thanksgiving preparations going on, I couldn’t wait any longer to share this recipe with you. It just wouldn’t be right! Of course, this would be a great thing to set out as a pre-Thanksgiving snack or to send home in little goody bags with guests afterward.

Also, thank you all so much for your feedback in response to my questions about what you wanted to see posted for Thanksgiving. Here’s what I’m planning based on your replies: a focused Thanksgiving round-up/menu suggestions since many people did think it would be helpful, a stuffing recipe, at least one dessert item and hopefully sometime next week, a low maintenance snack or appetizer. Also tomorrow I’ll be sharing a fun giveaway so be looking for that! (Update: Hold that thought. The giveaway will be later this week!) 

Ingredients

1 quart apple cider
¾ cup popcorn kernels, unpopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
Dash of ground cardamom
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  • 01

    Add the cider to a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Lower heat slightly but allow the cider to remain at a boil.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced to a thick syrup, between 1/3 and ½ cup.  Remove from the heat, and remove to a small bowl. Keep the saucepan for making the caramel – no need to wash it out.

  • 02

    Pop popcorn using your preferred method.  (I swear by my Whirley Pop!)  Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl (or two large bowls).  Make sure there is enough room in your bowls for tossing the popcorn.

  • 03

    Preheat the oven to 250° F.  Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a the saucepan set over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, mix in the cider reduction, corn syrup, brown sugar and salt.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.

  • 04

    Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cardamom. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract.  The mixture will bubble up and become frothy.  Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowl(s) and toss to coat thoroughly.  (I found my salad spoons very useful for this step.)

  • 05

    Spread the popcorn evenly onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  (It is okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout.  It will melt and become better spread out while baking.)  Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes.  After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn.  If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.

  • 06

    Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging.

Source

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3951/15568072387_b1a185823c_c.jpg
  • krossbow

    This sounds great. I don’t see what to do with the boiled cider after the first step.

  • This is such a neat recipe. I love caramel corn, but this apple cider version is spot on!! So yummy!

  • Trying to decide if I can sanely attempt this for Thanksgiving. Sounds delish!

  • Liz Anderson Parker

    Yum! I totally concur with you on the Whirley Pop. I bought one on your recommendation and have not looked back since!

  • oh my gosh. I love those apple cider caramels SO MUCH, and this looks like the perfect way to eat more of them. love it!

  • annieseats

    Of course! Caramel corn keeps for a looong time. Make it now, have it for Thanksgiving!

  • annieseats

    Fixed that, thanks!

  • krossbow

    Thank you!

  • I love caramel corn! An apple cider version? Yes, please!

  • Ashley G

    I LOVE your caramel corn! I am going to make these for Thanksgiving. I am so excited. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • You convinced me. =) I bought the cider today and plan to make this week. Thank you!

  • Francesca @ Love.Bake.Read

    Popcorn and apple cider?! Yes, please!

  • There is no way I would share a batch of this with anyone. I would be too busy gobbling it all down myself!

  • kelle

    Tastes delicious!
    But, takes a while to make. Reducing the apple cider took forever, and then it needs to bake another 40-50 minutes.
    Be prepared! LOL

  • Emily

    This recipe worked perfectly for me! I only had 1/4 cup of corn syrup in the house so I simply decreased it, and the recipe still worked wonderfully (always nice to know you can decrease sugar a little with no bad effects!). In fact, it’s the best caramel corn I’ve ever had — perfectly glossy and crunchy. The apple flavor was much more pronounced (though still subtle) after it had completely cooled. Thank you so much for the recipe – I’m bringing a bunch home for my family’s Thanksgiving and I know I’ll be making it again and again!

  • annieseats

    Yay! So glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Shari

    This looks so yummy, do you make your own apple cider? If so can you post the recipe?

  • annieseats

    No, I just buy it :)

  • Brandy Pestka

    i agree. reducing the apple cider took over an hour!

  • annieseats

    Yes, it should be expected that any reduction of a large amount of liquid to a very small amount will take a long time. You can make the reduction ahead of time and then do the rest later.

  • Rebecca Jackson

    For those of you who are put off by the time spent reducing the apple cider: King Arthur Flour sells bottled Boiled Cider on their website. Just measure out 1/2 cup of the boiled cider and use that for the first step of the recipe. Makes it go a little bit faster. And the bottle has enough to make several batches of this popcorn, so win win!