A few years ago, I shared a series of three posts about Halloween. I’m re-sharing those starting today, with a slight modification as to my Grandma and her popcorn balls. She was still with us when this post originally went up. I miss her dearly, my friends. Enjoy the treat you’ll find at the end of this post…
In spite of all the Christmas decorations gracing the floors of retail stores everywhere, I find it my duty to remind everyone that Halloween is indeed mere days away. And, with the scariest day of the year, well scariest aside from April 15, will come all the fun associated with it. Trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and horror flicks. Today, I thought I’d share a bit about all the kiddy fun involved with this holiday and a few childhood memories.
While I don’t recall my first Halloween, and I don’t remember most of the costumes I ever wore, I believe I may have been Casper one year, it’s the traditions that I remember vividly. Trivia fact about me, I lived in the middle of nowhere. Literally. We weren’t afforded the luxury of just simply leaving the front door and starting down the street to do our trick-or-treating. My sister and I would pile in the back seat of the family car and Dad and Mom would drive us on a circuit of regular stops to fetch the booty. There are a few stops I remember particularly fondly.
About two miles from our house on the side of the rural highway sat a country market. The elderly couple that owned it lived in a tiny house next door. We loved going to that market on a regular basis. They had bins of 3-cent candy and 10-cent Cokes in a big red floor cooler with a bottle opener on the rim of the lid. On Halloween night, it was the jackpot of all stops. Every year those old people must have spent days before Halloween making up the goody bags they always passed out. When you stopped there and knocked on their door you got a small brown paper sack stuffed full of that 3-cent candy. Mary Janes, Chic-o-Stics, gum, Dum-Dums, Sweet-Tarts, and red hots. You name it, it was in there. That was one of the first stops, and an absolute favorite.
Another that really stands out in my mind was the Dog Man’s house. I have no idea what his name was. I’m not sure I ever knew. All I do know for sure is we loved going there. He had a couple of small dogs that did tricks. Yes, one of the few places you got tricks and treats in the same stop. Every year the whole family was invited in and we’d all squeeze on the Dog Man’s couch. Then the show would begin. The dogs would do their dance and jump through a hula-hoop. After the show, we were given our treat. I have no idea what we ever got there. It was homemade and Mom would freak out and toss it because she was afraid it might have a dog hair in it. I laugh at that even now. We weren’t interested in the treat part anyway, we liked to go for the tricks.
The last place on my tour of favorite trick-or-treating haunts is my beloved Grandma’s. We always got a special treat above and beyond what the regular treaters got. One year it was a gigantic marshmallow pumpkin sucker. Good and messy! But what everyone really stopped there for was Grandma’s popcorn balls. Oh, my gravy! Thinking about them now makes me want one. Up until the point she couldn’t make them anymore, grown adults would go by there on Halloween specifically for a Grandma popcorn ball. Word spreads fast in a small community and everyone was privy to her infamous treat. Her last year on this earth, she missed Halloween by 27 days. She died October 4, 2014. It was a Saturday. Her popcorn balls were one of the things mentioned in her eulogy the next week.
In honor of my grandma, I’m going to share her recipe. Happy Halloween, Grandma. I miss you so very much.
1/2 pound popcorn
2/3 C corn syrup
2 C sugar
2/3 C boiling water
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 T vinegar
2 T melted butter
2 tsp vanilla flavoring
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pop corn according to package directions. Place in a large pan. In another pan combine syrup, sugar, water, and vinegar. Heat to boiling. Add cream of tartar. Boil to soft crack stage (275-280 F) Remove from heat. (giggling here-original recipe says remove from fire) Add butter, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour over popcorn. Form into balls.