Starting in the 1930s, Michelle’s 96-year-old grandmother cooked many a farm meal, and legions of farmhands claim she cooked them well—homemade and from scratch. But with the advent of “modern” convenience foods, by the Sixties (the time Michelle was a kid), Mamo felt it was quite forward-looking to seek out shortcuts.
Soup mix, pie crust mix, whatever—if it came in a box or a can, it had to be better than “from scratch.” But one thing Mamo always did make from scratch (even after the introduction of Fiddle Faddle and Poppycock) was popcorn balls. Mamo’s popcorn balls were small, really sweet and chewy, and delicious. For that, she felt there were no shortcuts.
Michelle’s mom, Jean, modified Mamo’s recipe. Hers are bigger, using some store-bought dark molasses to make them less sweet and peanuts to make them more Cracker Jack-ish. Big or small, it wouldn’t be Fall without a popcorn ball. Here is Jean’s recipe:
You need some regular old-fashioned sorghum molasses. For about 8 cups of cooked popcorn, use 1/2 cup of sorghum and 1/2 cup of dark molasses (like Grandma’s or Brer Rabbit type). I think they are too sweet using all sorghum. Cook the syrups in iron skillet or heavy pan with 1/2 cup white sugar until it makes a fairly hard ball in ice water. Take off heat & add about 1/2 tsp. baking soda to “foam” it. Pour over popped corn & peanuts. Have soft butter handy for hands to form into balls.