It's that spooky time of year! No better way to spend Halloween than watching scary movies and snacking on this bacon, bourbon and black pepper caramel corn!
Halloween is like my favorite holiday, the few weeks before Halloween I try and watch every scary movie that I can think of on my list. I'm currently watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre at this very moment as I am writing this article! Although, I have to pause it over and over again because I tell myself that if I put on a movie that I have seen a million times that I won't pay attention to it. (I say it will be background noise.) It's a lie to myself every time, maybe one day I will learn!
Anyway, back to the actual important stuff here....
I am a big fan of caramel corn and I have been making it for years! This year, I thought I would give it a little bit of a more grown-up twist. And what says adult more than bourbon and bacon, am I right? I added the black pepper because caramel corn can be cloyingly sweet and I felt the pepper just added a little spicy kick to balance out the sweetness just a tad. So good! Why did I not think of this sooner??
Psst....don't tell my orthodontist! I have my trendy adult braces right now (That's what I tell myself anyway) so I really shouldn't be eating this stuff but I am such a sucker for anything popcorn related. I just make sure I floss extra!
I can also tell you with much confidence that this will probably not be the last caramel corn recipe I bring to this blog either, now that I have stretched my experimental legs!
The hardest part about the process of making this popcorn for me is one: not eating all the bacon before I add it to the popcorn and two: not eating all the popcorn before I take the photos, but luckily for you guys I made it thru. I mean, I snagged a few pieces, I am not perfect after all.
Speaking of perfect! To create the perfect caramel you need to remember a few tips....
1.) Make sure you have all the ingredients that you add after the caramel is done measured out because you want to add it all quickly before the caramel cools down to much.
2.) Don't forget the baking soda! The baking soda reacts with the brown sugar and creates little carbon dioxide air bubbles which makes the caramel smoother and easier to toss in the popcorn. You will see the chemical reaction when you add the soda because it will bubble and change into a lighter brown color. It's cool!
3.) Make sure you bring the caramel to a boil before you stir it for the five minutes. I have accidentally done this a few times and it makes the caramel weird. Also, I stir the caramel constantly because its easier to forget if your not constantly watching, especially if you are absent minded like me. I mean, it's 5 minutes, I think you can make it.
4.) Make sure you stir the popcorn every 15 minutes and don't let it just sit in the oven the whole hour. The caramel needs to cook evenly and stirring contributes to that! A certain boyfriend of mine left our first batch in the oven too long and never stirred it and it was burnt, crystallized and chewy! Yuck.
Don't forget it and don't forget to stir it!!
A lot of times with recipes I create I like to add the actual ingredient and the essential oil version. I believe it just adds a more complete flavor profile but it always depends on which essential oil I am using.
In this recipe I added a teaspoon of black pepper to the caramel in the beginning with the salt and since the essential oils are sensitive to heat I try to avoid adding them at the highest heating point so I added it afterwards with the bourbon, baking soda and vanilla.I measured out the bourbon and added the vanilla and black pepper essential oil into the bourbon so the essential oil could get more evenly dispersed into the caramel. It worked really well!
And that's it!
I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween this year and if you do make this recipe for a party or even just yourself; while you have a scary movie marathon, tell me what you think! Or, what you did to make it your own. I would love to hear it!
Happy Halloween guys!
bacon, bourbon and black pepper caramel corn
serves 6 to 8 people
7 quarts of plain popped popcorn or about 28 cups
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup bourbon
3 drops doTERRA black pepper essential oil*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
Put popcorn in large greased baking pan and set aside.
Measure out the baking soda, vanilla, bourbon and the black pepper essential oil and set aside to have ready to add quickly.
Melt the butter in a heavy medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and immediately add in the bourbon, essential oil, vanilla and baking soda. Stir a few times and then stir in the chopped bacon.
Immediately after, pour over the popcorn and toss to coat evenly. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Take out the oven and place on parchment paper, let cool and break into pieces if so desired. Dig in!
If you do not want to use the black pepper essential oil then just add an extra two teaspoons of black pepper to the beginning of the recipe.
I like to stir my popcorn with the caramel in a big greased bowl before I transfer in into a pan so I do not spill but it you have a deep enough pan than that will be fine too!
*We use doTERRA essential oils for cooking because of their high quality and purity. You do not have to use essential oils for this recipe but if you do make sure they are food grade and safe for internal consumption. Check out my recipe notes on how to make this recipe without essential oils if you so desire. Enjoy!