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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who Thought Corn Syrup Was a Good Idea, Anyway?

Corn products are so prevalent in America because corn is a government subsidized crop. In fact, corn receives more government subsidies than any other crop. It is one reason for the obesity crisis in this country. Not only does it cause waistline problems in the form of sweetner, "But in recent years, environmentalists have branded corn as an icon of unsustainable agriculture. It requires large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, both of which require large amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture."

But does that mean we should avoid corn at all costs? After all, corn was one of the Native American's "Three Sisters" (along with beans and squash). They must have known something our government doesn't. Corn is high in vitamin B1 as well as dietary fiber. How ever, only whole corn gives you these benefits and organic corn is non-genetically modified. So what's the secret to eating corn, and not feeling guilty? Popcorn! When you pop organic kernels yourself, instead of microwave, you get a snack food low in calories, high in fiber, and delicious!

Here is a recipe for caramel corn that uses no corn syrup and still gives kids (and kids at heart) a sweet treat. Maybe not the skinniest of recipes, but it sure beats greasy microwave popcorn. We all need a treat every now and again!

Corn-Syrup Free Caramel Corn

I always wondered what purpose corn syrup plays as it is so prevalent in baking and candy making. Here's the secret (thanks Alton Brown): corn syrup is added when making any sort of candy where sugar is melted. This is because it interferes with the sugar crystals ability to recrystallize and make the resulting candy cloudy and grainy. So in a sense, an agent is necessary in order to assist this process. However, instead of corn syrup, this recipe uses maple syrup and honey to prevent crystals from forming.

3 cups. popped organic corn
1 c. organic white sugar
1/3. c. brown sugar
1/3 c. water
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
dash cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pop popcorn using stovetop or air popper. Put popcorn off to the side. Begin making caramel in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add all ingredients except baking soda and vanilla. Stir until combined, then let simmer without stirring. Watch pot carefully! Cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar becomes a nice caramel color and the bubbles begin to build up upon one another (in other words, you don't just see a single layer of bubbles on the top). Take the pot off the heat. Now you need to work quickly. Put in the baking soda and vanilla and stir quickly. The mixture will foam up quite a bit and sizzle, so don't be alarmed. Mix until well combined, then dump in all of your pop corn. Stir until fairly evenly coated and dump popcorn on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil (you will thank me when it comes to clean-up time). Spread out evenly (with a silicone spatula) and put pan in oven. Cook for 10 minutes, stir, and bake another 5 minutes. This allows the caramel to become crispy. Let cool completely and enjoy!


  1. I have been wondering myself lately about how to make Pecan Pie without corn syrup. Its really the only thing I make with it. Also its a once a year indulgence do you think that makes it OK?

  2. everything in moderation is ok in my book...