Football games, homemade chili, hot cider and pumpkins signal a change in the seasons, and it also means a shift in my cooking. Gone are the quick, cold, summer salads.
Making a batch of Cracker Jack popcorn is one of my favorite things to do on a leisurely October weekend because it keeps so well and it smells wonderful when it is baking in the oven.
It is the perfect snack for football games or hungry teenagers. Be sure to use a large roasting pan, with high sides, when making this, as the stirring will easily cause pieces to jump over the sides of a normal baking pan.
If you are in a mood for hot pumpkin bread, try Teresa's Apple Cider Pumpkin Bread — its streusel topping is sensational.
Homemade Cracker Jack
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup margarine
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup shelled peanuts (salted, not dry roasted)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 gallons made-from-scratch popped popcorn (32 cups)
In a saucepan, combine sugar, margarine, corn syrup and peanuts and bring to a boil and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Keep stirring with a very long-handled spoon as this will splatter (use caution as this is very hot).
Remove from the heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour liquid over popped popcorn in a bowl and mix well.
Turn this out onto a large baking pan (with high sides) and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Transfer hot corn to waxed paper to cool.
Store in an airtight container. Do not use microwave popcorn for this recipe. This will keep for several weeks.
Teresa's Apple Cider Pumpkin Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-oz. can pumpkin (not pie mix)
2/3 cup apple cider (or use apple juice)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth.
Alternating, add a little of the canned pumpkin and a little of the apple cider, beating well after each addition. Stir in the pecans. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. At this point, make Streusel Topping and put on top of loaves.
Bake loaves for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pans.
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine all ingredients (except pecans) with your fingers until the topping resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the pecans.