The ‘interweb’ is a dangerous place. I can think of few other things that encourage such a false sense of privacy. Because it’s just you right? Sitting in your jammies no make-up on, sipping rooibos, hammering away at your latest post. All alone. Totally private. Completely safe. Like a 19th century diary with a teeny titanium lock. In reality of course, it’s the second least private thing you can do. The least private probably being an ill-advised video of your latest amorous encounter uploaded onto YouTube.
Being horribly aware of just how what one puts out there can turn around and bite one in the bum – rather like Merlot does at 4am to signal feeding time – I have a not insubstantial list of online writing rules. Things like: 1) No sex. 2) No religion. 3) No swearing. 4) No negativity. 5) No politics.
#BringBackNene. #PayBackTheMoney. #ZumaMustFall. RFN. #EnoughIsEnough.
Golly gosh, did I just break two of my cardinal rules? Sure looks like it. So while I’m in naughty mode, I may as well throw caution to the wind and break my most sacred of rules – RULE SIX: Never, ever, ever, never take on big supermarket chains.
But really, sometimes they’re just gagging for it. There I was in the queue at one of my favourite hangouts – The Store That Shall Not Be Named (but you know who it is) – when I spotted something rather fabulous looking. A gigantic bottle of caramel popcorn with a charming red and white French ribbon. Moth, flame.
The price tag was R199. That’s just R1 (0,065 American cents at the current exchange rate – thanks a ton JZ) shy of R200. A lot of money for popcorn, given that I can buy a bag that I pop the old fashioned way (in a pot with a smidge of oil) for just R10. It can’t be the French ribbon, which I know sells for R1,25 for half a metre at my local haberdashery. So it obviously had to be the bottle. It was rather handsome. So I picked it up. And found it was plastic. The kind that’s so thin it will crumple when your wheezy 18-year-old Dachshund breathes on it. So that was obviously not it. R200? Really, The Store That Shall Not Be Named, get a grip.
If you’re going to give someone popcorn for Christmas, go to Mr Price, drop R60 on a nice glass bottle the recipient may actually want, and fill it with these delicious OTT salted-caramel popcorn balls. They’re cheap and ridiculously easy to make. Three rules broken. My, my. I’ll be lynched before New Year.
All you need is…
1 cup unpopped popcorn
2 tbs cooking oil
salt (Maldon is perfect for this)
2 cups dark brown sugar (I used Selati’s demerara)
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp vinegar
½ cup water
2 tbs melted butter
Tools: basting brush, old fashioned ice cream scoop
To pop the popcorn, heat a large thick-bottomed pot with 2tbs oil. Pour in the popcorn and cover with a lid. Shake it occasionally while the popcorn pops to ensure it doesn’t burn. Once the popping stops, remove the pot from the heat and remove the lid right away. Scoop the popcorn out (take care to leave any unpopped ones behind), sprinkle it with some salt and keep it warm in a large heatproof bowl in your warming drawer or oven set on low. (You may ask why, but all will become clear.)
Now make the caramel. Place the rest of the ingredients (except the butter) in a saucepan and boil it over medium heat until it starts thickening and reaches hard crack stage. Most folks don’t have a sugar themometer, but you don’t need one. Simply drop a spoon of the caramel into a bowl of ice water. If it turns rock hard instantly (i.e. not toffee like), it’s reached hard crack stage.
Remove the warm bowl of popcorn from the oven and pour over the caramel. Stir right away to ensure all the popcorn is covered. (If the bowl is cold, the caramel will sink to the bottom and immediately harden, making it so much harder to stir. With a warm bowl and warm popcorn, it will cool gradually, giving you plenty of time to make the balls.)
Brush an old-fashioned round ice cream scoop with melted butter and use it to scoop the popcorn. You’ll get a perfectly formed ball shape at the bottom and just a gentle shaping with your hands on top is all it takes. Turn the balls over onto wax paper and allow them to cool completely. Once cool, place the balls in a large bottle or any other airtight container. You can make these up to week ahead of time.
TIPS: For a bit of chilli heat, add a sprinkling of cayenne to the popcorn. Or add some smoked Spanish paprika. You can also roughly chop salted peanuts and add them to the popcorn.