The first recipe published for this holiday treat was about 1861 when the New York cookbook author E. F. Haskell printed it in her Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia. This is one of my favourite childhood memories of the holidays. Here is our family's variation.
14 cups popped corn
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 drops red food colouring
Butter for greasing hands, bowl, and cookie sheet
Place the popcorn in a large greased bowl. Put the
sugar, syrup and water in a saucepan over medium
Stir frequently to the "soft crack" stage (280ºF on a
candy thermometer.) Remove from heat.
Immediately add food colouring and vanilla. Stir well.
Without hesitating, pour the syrup over popped corn.
Stir to cover all popcorn kernels. Working quickly with
greased hands and re-greasing as necessary, scoop up enough
corn to form a ball.
Shape into a ball and place on a greased cookie sheet to
cool. Cool thoroughly before storing.
NOTE: You may make this in two batches using a different
food colour for each batch. Red and green for Christmas,
blue for Chanukkah, orange for Halloween, etc.
Try using different flavourings such as maple, rum, or coconut
in place of the vanilla.
Here is a handy conversion table for cooking around the world.