When you’re out tasting wine on a lazy weekend in Sonoma, you might expect your wine to be paired with cheese, crackers or maybe even some fresh-from-the-vine grapes. You’re probably not expecting to pair wine with caramel corn. If you happen to be visiting the Kendall Jackson Wine Center in Santa Rosa, California, however, you might need to change your expectations a bit because the caramel corn that they make there and serve as a pairing with one of their sweet, late-harvest wines is absolutely fantastic.
And fortunately for those of you who don’t live near the Sonoma Valley – or those of us who just returned from there – the chefs at Kendall Jackson have kindly shared their recipe on their blog so that anyone can make it at home.
Kendall Jackson’s Double Gold Caramel Corn is pretty much the perfect caramel corn, especially if you like the salty-sweet taste of kettle corn. It is sweet and salty, with a generous amount of kosher salt added to the caramel before it coats the popcorn. The addition of salt prevents the popcorn from being overly sweet (which many caramel corns are) and makes your mouth water every time you pop a piece in.
The instructions left by the chefs are quite specific and, if you follow them carefully, you’ll end up with perfectly crisp caramel corn. The caramel is made with butter, brown sugar and corn syrup on the stove top. Salt, vanilla and a small amount of baking soda (to aerate the caramel and prevent it from becoming too dense and difficult to bite into) are added before the caramel is tossed onto air-popped popcorn (you can buy this, plain, at the grocery store). The coated caramel corn is baked at a low temperature to dry it out and keep the popcorn crisp and fresh. You’ll have to wait until it cools down to dig in, but the recipe is not difficult and not too time consuming. If you’re like me, you’ll go through a batch of this fairly quickly – especially if you have a bottle of the amazing Kendall-Jackson Late Harvest Chardonnay to pair it with. Store the popcorn in an airtight container after it has completely cooled if you’re not eating it all at once.
Kendall Jackson’s Double Gold Caramel Corn
(recipe from Kendall Jackson’s culinary team)
12 cups air popped popcorn (pref. unsalted)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar (pref. golden brown)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 300F. Line a large rimmed sheet pan (10×15 inches) with aluminum foil and lightly grease. A nonstick pan can also be used.
Lightly grease a very large bowl with a very thin coating of cooking spray or vegetable oil. Place popcorn in bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add corn syrup and brown sugar and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, without agitating or stirring the pan, for 4 minutes.
Continue cooking for an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring well with a spatula every thirty seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, salt and baking soda.
Pour caramel over popcorn in the large bowl and carefully fold the popcorn with a spatula until it is evenly coated with the caramel.
Pour caramel covered popcorn onto prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 15 minutes, stirring or turning the popcorn every 5 minutes.
Place one very large sheet of parchment paper on the countertop and spread cooked caramel corn onto it after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes, then separate it into small clusters while still very warm.
Allow to cool completely before eating or storing.
Makes about 12 cups.