Cracker Jack was born in Chicago after being introduced by F.W. Rueckheim and Brother at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago’s first World’s Fair in 1893.  Here’s a recipe you can try at home, made with another tasty Illinois original – Beer Nuts®.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 1/2 cups Beer Nuts®
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250F degrees.  Place popcorn and nuts in a large bowl.  Melt butter in large heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.

Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring.  Cook until mixture reaches 248F degrees on a candy thermometer for 2 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Add caramel to popcorn mixture.  Stir to coat.  Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring twice.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.  Let cool and break into clusters.

Cooled caramel popcorn can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.