Everyone has a good story that involves a weekday afternoon spent drinking a beer (or three) and eating marginal food (that tastes amazing real-time) at their favorite ballpark cheering on their favorite team. The sun is out, the fans are lively, not a worry in the world. My friends, baseball is almost here. Spring Training is coming to an end and the excitement is brewing for Opening Day.
In Chicago baseball is about as disputed as religion and politics. The difference is…we love talking about it and we can still be friends (in most cases) after we do. Cubs or Sox? Northside or Southside? In Chicago, even if you don’t follow baseball, or know the team roster, or even know the stadium name–YOU HAVE A TEAM. If you transplanted to Chicago you will not go a season without a team. If you do not pick a team, your friends will designate one for you, or you will marry into one (trust me, ask my dad and husband).
Love me or hate me, I’m a Sox fan. I was born into a Sox family. My Grandma loved listening to the Cubs games on her radio, but my Grandpa, Papa Joe (Komorn) – he was a Sox fan! Thus, the Sox lineage was born. I will admit that my Mom and Brother are far more devout than I. But their devoutness I gladly take as my own – especially when I meet a Cubs fan. Watch out!
In honor of Opening Day nearing and all those wonderful memories of sitting in the seats on a weekday afternoon at Comiskey Park…I bring you one of my favorite ballpark snacks – Cracker Jack. And baseball fans, this isn’t any Cracker Jack, this is For Good Granola Cracker Jack. This is one to make…trust me…you will quickly forget there is no prize at the bottom of the box!
For Good Granola Cracker Jacks
yields: about 3 ½ quarts
note: If you are using pre-bagged microwave popcorn for this recipe, avoid using a heavily buttered or seasoned variety. If popping the old-fashioned way, 6 tablespoons of un-popped corn will yield about 3 quarts popped corn.
3 quarts popped corn (see note)
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
6 T light corn syrup
2 T molasses
1/2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1/2 t baking soda
2 cups For Good Granola, Original Blend
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray roasting pan (or large disposable aluminum pan) with non-stick cooking spray. Add popped popcorn to pan. Set aside.
In large saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3-4 minutes, until syrup thickens slightly. Remove saucepan from heat and immediately stir in vanilla bean paste and baking soda, then fold in For Good Granola.
Immediately pour caramel over popcorn in roasting pan and use a heat proof spatula to toss and coat. Continue folding until you have coated the popcorn as much as possible. DO NOT stress out if the caramel “seizes” up and you are not able to evenly coat all the popcorn – it will thin back out in the oven.
Transfer roasting pan to preheated oven and bake until deep golden brown and caramel has set, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. After the first 15 minutes of baking, the caramel will thin and you will find it much easier to evenly coat the popcorn. Cool to room temperature and serve.