We were the family on the block who laboriously made and distributed popcorn balls to trick-or-treaters at Halloween.
During the years that we did it, nobody was talking about razor blades wickedly secreted in apples, and you never heard anyone brag about the house with factory-made candy: WE were the shizz. The only people who outranked us on the Halloween Awesomeness Scale was that family who rolled the grill out into the driveway and cooked ten zillion hot dogs and handed them out with lots of mustard, ketchup, and good-natured chuckles to the dozens of pillowcase-toting hoboes, gypsies, ghosts, witches, clowns, and vampires that flew madly about our Memphis suburb.
Those were the days. NObody had a store-bought costume. EVERYbody was the same set of characters (see above paragraph) for the most part, every single year.
Except for the year I was an Indian maiden, that is. And in that case I actually had a black wool wig with a two-foot braid, which didn’t make make me look any less Caucasian, especially since it was hot as blazes and I mostly carried it in my pillowcase the entire night. Otherwise I wore a little brown dress and a nifty beaded headband with a red feather that I’d bought for $2 on our class trip to the Chucalissa Indian Village and Museum. Pale blonde suburban girl notwithstanding, that may have been my best Halloween.
But I was going to tell you about our popcorn balls.
My mother made them, and my younger sister and I carefully wrapped each one in Saran Wrap or waxed paper or something, but that wasn’t all. We actually tied ribbon on each popcorn ball AND THEN CURLED IT with scissors. Remember when we all discovered you could curl ribbon with the edge of a scissors? We couldn’t do enough of it. Zzzip! Zzzip! Zzzip! Better than TV. (Of course, we didn’t have a TV.)
We made one million jillion popcorn balls, and everyone loved us. One year we added some kind of organic, all-natural orange coloring (we were health hippies looong before you were – the only hot dogs I’d ever eaten in my first 20 years of life were at Halloween) to the sticky stuff that glues the popcorn balls together; who knew they could get better?
But eventually, we started hearing about the poisoned popcorn balls and razor blades and “Don’t eat any Halloween candy that doesn’t come factory sealed,” and the universe lost my Mom’s phenomenal Halloween popcorn balls with curly black and orange ribbon.
So I guess this is a sad story, unless you’re me. Because my mom will still make them, and I’ll still zipcurl the ribbon. Give me a call if you’re in the neighborhood some Halloween. We’ll set you up.
Update: Thank you Robert, for reminding me to post the recipe! Here ’tis:
Lisa’s Mom’s Halloween Popcorn Balls
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 qts popped popcorn (don’t use microwave for this)
- 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Butter the sides of a saucepan, and combine the sugar, water, salt, corn syrup and vinegar. Cook over medium heat to hard ball stage (250 degrees F). Stir in vanilla. Pour hot mixture over popped corn, stirring to mix. Butter your hands and shape the mix (very hot! be careful!) into balls. Cool popcorn balls on waxed paper.
Note: They won’t look like the picture I posted because they aren’t caramel popcorn balls. They are, however, delicious!
Image by newwavegurly