Smoked Maple Bacon Popcorn

Happy International Bacon Day! In honor of this magical day for people around the globe, Marie Teckmyer, owner of Happy Hour Collection, and I have collaborated to bring you recipes utilizing this much beloved icon of the pork world.

If you’ve ever made caramel corn, you know that it’s easy to make and that, more importantly, it usually yields a ton. The caramel itself can be a little tricky if you’ve never made it before, but this recipe skips that step, making it even easier. Thanks to the sugar found in maple syrups, you can actually substitute it for the water and the sugar (and typically vanilla) you would usually use for a caramel. It will still look and taste like traditional caramel corn, except it has the additional subtle flavors of maple and, in this case, smoke. 

I got the syrup I used in this recipe from Marie’s store here in Cleveland called Happy Hour Collection. If you’re from the area I would definitely recommend going in to pick some up, because you’ll probably find several other things you didn’t even know you needed in your life. At least, I always do.

If you aren’t close to Cleveland you can still buy the syrup online here. I quickly became a little obsessed with it and have been trying to use it in everything lately.  Marie actually has a recipe for a bacon old fashioned on her blog that uses this syrup. She also has a great explanation of fat-washing alcohols, so if you’ve never tried that before check out her post to find out how to do it. Fat-washing is pretty easy and gives you a lot of room for creativity in your cocktail making.

You will need:

  • 14-15 cups popcorn (usually one bag if using microwave)
  • 1 cup Tippleman’s Smoked Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp smoked salt (or regular sea salt)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped bacon, very well-done
  • 1/4 cup cocktail peanuts (optional)

I cook my bacon in the oven on a foil-lined sheet for 12-15 minutes at 400, which I recommend since it helps your bacon cook more evenly and with less mess. Plus, you can pour the grease off easily and save it!

Once your bacon is cooked, preheat your oven to 225. Stir together popcorn, bacon and peanuts. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the smoked maple syrup and salt. I use a smoked Maldon sea salt, which is available at most grocery stores now, but if you can’t find it or don’t want to buy it, just substitute regular flaked sea salt. Cook until a thermometer reads 240 degrees. I know, I hate having to use candy thermometers too. But unfortunately you can’t make this by eye like you can with caramel, since the mixture is already dark, so you really do need the thermometer this time.

Once it has reached 240, add baking soda. It will bubble up a bit, so be careful. Pour the hot liquid over popcorn mixture and stir to evenly coat everything. Use parchment paper to line a baking sheet, or two, if your sheets are small. Spread everything out into a flat layer on the sheet. It will stick together a lot, but just try to break up the biggest clumps.

Bake it for 1 hour, but make sure to take it out and stir it around every 15 minutes. Don’t panic if it seems like it’s still somewhat soft and sticky, especially in the beginning. By the last stir, it should seem more set, but still be a little sticky. It will set the rest of the way once cooled. You can also add on an extra 15 minutes if you want it to be extra crispy in the end, but it shouldn’t need it. Before it cools and sets all the way though, I like to add an extra pinch or two of that smoked (or regular) sea salt, just to cut the sweetness a little more.

I’m not really sure how long this keeps, to be honest, because I always eat caramel corn way too quickly to properly test that. But it will definitely keep for at least a few days in an airtight jar or bag, so it makes for a great gift.

I have also found, through scientific experimentation, that these types of snacks make for great karaoke road trip food. So when I have to travel for holidays, I make a few jars of snack mixes for gifts, and then pack the rest in a giant baggie for myself to eat in the car. That way you don’t have to face that temptation of eating the food you’re supposed to give to to others, or to buy or make yourself separate car snacks. You’re welcome for all the time and money I just saved you, fellow travelers.

Marie and I will be collaborating more in the future to bring you delicious recipes, impressive cocktails, life advice, tell-all interviews, and more. So keep checking back with us both for that! In the meantime, if you make this popcorn or her old fashioned, we would love to see it. Tag us on instagram @nhubble and @happyhourcle

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