Charming Bacon Caramel Corn

How do I put this delicately, I dig on swine. It’s practically hackneyed to say because bacon is everywhere. It was in the caramel corn at a “punch party” I recently attended at Aquitaine. There was a festival devoted to bacon and beer in the South End in April that sold out in a heartbeat. I’ve even seen it start to pop up in cocktails. (If you happen to be drinking a bloody Mary I urge you to check your vodka: bacon could be lurking.)

And I haven’t heard one person complain about this. Turns out, most people tend to dig on swine—with the exception of the hit man “Jules” from the movie Pulp Fiction. In fact, Jules makes it clear to his mobster partner, Vincent, that he does not dig on swine—bacon included. Not because he is a vegetarian (though his girlfriend is) but because—in his opinion—the pig is a filthy animal. Though, he relents he’d possibly reconsider his pig philosophy if he met a very, very charming pig (and I’m paraphrasing here).

So there you have it, personality does count for something. And I absolutely can not mention personality AND caramel corn in the same post without mentioning my childhood piano teacher, Mr. Sauer. Mr. Sauer oozed personality. He had tight curlicue black hair. He was bubbly. He possessed an all-year-round mischievous elf-like quality. And he always gave me an “A+” on the music I had practiced on for the week. Charming. I was not naturally talented, but I practiced hard.

My sister also tended to get an A+ on her weekly lesson, though my sister did not always practice. You could occasionally hear a cacophony of “Fur Elise” throughout the house as she banged away on the keys. “A+ lessons!” Mr. Sauer would say effervescently to my mother each week without fail, which tended to make us all chuckle.

And each year around Christmas time, my mother would reward Mr. Sauer’s A+ merriment with a tin of homemade caramel corn. He treasured this caramel corn and opened the tin the moment my mother handed it to him; I’m not certain his caramel corn ever survived its ride home.

The same ritual happened year after year and Mr. Sauer’s love for my mother’s caramel corn became somewhat of a running family joke. So much so, that when I recently asked my mother for her recipe, she wrote it down with the final note, “Take out of oven and let cool. Give to Mr. Sauer for Christmas.”

So when I saw the caramel corn at Aquitaine I knew it was time to pay tribute to Mr. Sauer and to Christmas traditions, melding old with new. I don’t know where Mr. Sauer is today, but I can only hope he’d give this caramel corn an A+.

Personally, I can’t stop eating the delightful stuff. In fact, I’d go so far as to borrow a sentiment from another curlicue black-haired gentleman, our gangster friend Jules: this is one charming mother f-in’ caramel corn.

Bacon Caramel Corn

Adapted from Aquitaine (and my mother)

1/2 pound bacon, 4 tbsp bacon fat reserved (or can use 4 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil)
1 cup uncooked popcorn kernels
1 cup butter
1.5 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Splash bourbon (~1 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Cut bacon into a fine dice and pan-fry until crispy, reserve 2 tbsp bacon fat, and set the bits of bacon aside. Heat bacon fat (or alternatively oil) in a medium-sized metal pan that has a lid. When fat is hot, add popcorn kernels and toss to coat in fat. Place lid on; kernels should begin to pop within 10-20 seconds. Once popping slows to 3-4 seconds between pops remove from heat. Put popcorn on a baking sheet, discarding the unpopped kernels.

Heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 300 degrees F (or about 5 minutes, mixture will be slowly bubbling). Remove from heat and add baking soda, bacon, vanilla and bourbon and swirl together.

Pour caramel mixture on popcorn and stir until thoroughly combined. Bake for about 1 hr, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly and break into pieces.

Give to Mr. Sauer for Christmas.

Makes about 8 cups

-I used an 2 quart pan to pop my kernels and had to do them in 2 batches. The first time I did this I was cursing not having a popcorn maker and lamenting my stand against speciality kitchen gadgets, as the oil smoked and popcorn kernels flew across my kitchen. It got much easier the second time around (after I road-tested 3 different pots).

-I used black jewel kernels, though any would be fine.

-Ah, to refrigerate or not to refrigerate. That is the question. I couldn't find a common consensus (or actually any guidance whatsoever on how to properly store bacon caramel corn-go figure). Because the bacon gets folded into the caramel, I've rationalized it will coat and protect against bacteria forming (I did not want to risk soggy caramel corn). Chocolate bars with bits of bacon aren't refrigerated either and I haven't died yet, but you'll have to weigh the odds for yourself.


  1. So, I must admit to still being a skeptic as far as all these bacon-in-everything type recipes are concerned (says the girl who just made bacon, cheddar & onion biscuits last night), but you are sorely tempting me! Mostly, I just wanted to say that I love the writing here; nicely done!

  2. I think Mr. Sauer would definitely be pleased! Love the salty and sweet!

  3. Mr. Sauer sounds like a real gem. Love that story.

  4. Cute story.... and your mother's carmel corn IS yummy! So gotta try it! PS: Just wondering how much carmel corn Mr Sauer will get this year!

  5. What a great tribute, and nice story! It sounds yummy, though I'll take my Bloody Mary vegetarian, thank you!

  6. Hi all. Andra from French Press Memos let me know that she has been having a hard time leaving comments on my blog. If you are also having difficulty, shoot me an email and let me know so I can get whatever glitch it is corrected. Thanks and happy snacking!

  7. The caramel corn looks amazing, I really want to try it! I love the story too, great for the holiday season.

  8. Wait a tick....bacon + caramel corn?! Um, YUM. Must try this!

  9. my answer to the fridge question is this: eat the stuff before it can become an issue. :)

  10. Wow, this sounds so interesting! Bacon, caramel and popcorn are all great things so I can see how it would all go together well!

  11. Love how bacon is being paired with sweet treats these days. This looks super super delish!!!

  12. Oh wow....this sounds sooooo good! What a great snack :)