Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls

With Halloween almost here, I got thinking back to my childhood when we “went Halloweening” in the Coal Region (many of us in Schuylkill County didn’t call it “trick or treating”).

It was often cold in the Coal Region by the time October 31st rolled around and I remember my Mom always choosing a costume for me that a jacket or heavy sweater would fit under. But no matter how cold it was, it always felt like your face was in a steam sauna all night under that plastic mask!

How many of you remember these costumes that came in a box with a cheap “outfit” and flimsy plastic mask? I certainly had my share of them.

We also worked for our treats — performing a song, dancing a little jig, reciting a poem or a joke — there was no “grab and go” collecting of treats when I was a kid! I was known to practice my “piece” for weeks prior to the big night.

It was inevitable someone passed out something other than chocolate — usually that really cheap, junky candy mix stuff — but I always hoped for a popcorn ball.  I just loved them. Crunchy, and sweet, and salty, and usually wrapped in waxed paper, they were best eaten the night received and I made sure mine never saw the light of the net day! I think this little blast from my past is going to be on my to-do list this weekend.

Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls

Recipe by Lori Fogg, A Coalcracker In The KitchenCourse: Snacks, DessertsCuisine: Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy


  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1-1/2 cups water

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

  • 1 tsp white vinegar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 20 cups good quality popped corn


  • Spread popcorn on a baking sheet, and place in preheated 200F oven to keep warm.
  • Butter sides of saucepan. In it combine sugar, water, corn syrup, salt and vinegar.  Bring to boil and cook to 250F (hard ball stage).
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla carefully. (This mixture is extremely hot and will burn you easily – use care when handling).
  • Place the warm popcorn in a large bowl and pour the syrup slowly over the popcorn, stirring and tossing just to coat well. Allow to cool slightly for safe handling.
  • Butter hands lightly an shape into desired sized popcorn balls. Work quickly at this point! (a helper is very useful)
  • Wrap in plastic wrap or in decorative bags with ribbon when completely cooled.