My recipe is:
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (you can use all white if that's all you have)
4tbsp honey or golden syrup (whichever I happen to have on hand)
You can also add chopped nuts to make it extra delicious but of course most schools have a nut ban.
I make a huge bowl of air popped popcorn which is the equivalent of 6 of the little popcorn measure on the top of my machine. Probably close to 2 cups of kernels. You can decrease the caramel quantities according to the amount of popcorn you have popped. I just thought I'd leave it in big family quantities for a change :)
Use a heavy bottom saucepan. Melt the butter and add the other ingredients and stir on low heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to about moderate and bring the caramel to the boil. It will be all frothy. Adjust the heat to the minimum heat it needs to boil. I forgot to time it, but I think it is just under 5 mins or so until it is ready.
I check by using a spoon and pouring a little off the spoon back into the pot. There will be a dangly bit left on the spoon. I blow on it to cool it then I pull it with my other fingers while blowing on it. There are various stages, sticky thread, soft thread, hard thread. Hard thread is what you would use for toffee. The thread will be brittle and break when you try to bend it. Soft thread (meaning it will bend without breaking but is not sticky) is good for caramel. Sticky thread is more for toppings and flowing caramel. Of course there are varying degrees of softness and some people love chewy caramel corn and some love it crispy.
You can also tell by colour. When it is a golden brown it should be good. Don't let it go dark brown or it will be burnt. You can also tell by putting some on a cold plate, let it cool a little then poke it and see if it is sticky. Use whatever method you are familiar with or give one or all a try. There is probably an ideal temperature to use a candy thermometer with. I bought one recently but haven't used it yet. Practice makes perfect!
Whatever method you use, keep an eye on the pot as the situation can change very quickly! It really isn't hard though. My DD16 makes this all the time. You soon get used to what it should be like and believe me, you are going to want to make more of this!
When the caramel is ready let it settle just a few minutes and pour around over the popcorn. I have mine in a huge stainless steel mixing bowl. If you use a plastic bowl, the heat of the caramel may well melt it. Stir it around until it is evenly coated. Don't let the caramel touch you or let anyone touch it as it can give nasty burns. If someone gets it on them, quickly run the burn under cold water.
If you leave it a while until it is still hot but touchable, you can grab handfuls and form into balls. You need to work quickly. My older children like to help with this. Once it is cooler, the little ones can help.
If you spread it out on trays, it is easier to crumble up when it is cool if you don't want balls.
And just because, they were there and looked so cute, a gummi bear rainbow:) Do you line your lollies up before munching? I don't normally but they were such nice graduated shades.