Cracker Jack, a caramel coated mix of popcorn and peanuts, has become an iconic snack made famous for more than a century in baseball lore. Food historians believe it was first introduced at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, ultimately leading to its commercialization in 1896. Initially described as a “crackerjack” (a term used to describe “excellent quality”), this then lead to its famous name, “Cracker Jack.” Since then, it has been a staple sold at baseball games, even earning a mention in the 1908 song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” under the lyrics “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” And now, years later, the famous snack is still sold at baseball games, bringing back (and creating) many fond childhood memories for all.
With the vibrant history of such a delicious treat, this would make a great homemade food gift for someone special. Even better, with Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to make Dad this food gift to celebrate the good times you’ve spent together. With its sweet and salty butterscotch flavor, combined with the crunch of peanuts and popcorn, this recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn is guaranteed to hold true to the original Cracker Jack slogan of “the more you eat the more you want!”
Homemade Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn Mix
Yield: 6 cups
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda *
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. peanuts, roasted
5 c. popcorn, cooked (note: one 3 oz. bag of microwave popcorn should create about 5 cups of cooked popcorn)
1) Pre-heat the oven to 250 F / 121 C and prepare a sheet tray by lining it with parchment paper.
2) In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt the butter, then add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until a candy thermometer reaches 250 F / 121 C, about 8 minutes.
3) Remove from heat and add the baking soda* and vanilla.
4) In a large bowl, mix together the hot caramel with the nuts and popcorn, ensuring the ingredients are evenly coated.
5) Spread into an even layer on the prepared sheet tray, and bake for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.
6) Allow to cool and separate the mixture. To maintain freshness, store in an airtight container in a cool and dry environment for up to 3 weeks.
*Chef’s Tip: Adding baking soda to the mixture will help the caramel coat the popcorn. Combined with the natural acids already present from the other ingredients, the baking soda will react with them to create a bit of foaming which will help to disperse the sauce when mixing everything together.
Play up the baseball theme by packaging this recipe up into a classic popcorn container, which is available at most craft stores such as Michaels or Jo-Ann. For a fun spin, make it like the original Cracker Jack with a prize inside, but personalize it to the recipient (especially if it’s a Father’s Day gift). A favorite photo, small gift, or a message sealed in a small plastic bag would be a sweet surprise to find among this delicious treat!