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I found this in a Chicago Tribune article on Chicago baseball history. They called Cracker Jack the "primordial American snack". I don't know about that but I do know that this stuff is really tasty!
- Heat oven to 250°; line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pour oil and corn into a large pot; cover, heat over medium high and when sound of popping slows down, turn off the heat, slide the lid open just enough to let steam, but not wayward popcorn explosions, escape; pick out any old maids (unpopped kernels) and set aside.
- Mix molasses, sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat until the mixture reaches the hard-ball stage on a candy thermometer, 260°; stir in the butter, then the baking soda and salt.
- The mixture will turn a light caramel color and rise up in a bubbling mass; be prepared but not alarmed.
- Stir in the peanuts until coated with caramel.
- Pour the peanut-caramel mixture over the popcorn, which is still in it's large pot, and turn with a rubber spatula until nicely coated.
- Turn out the popcorn mixture onto the baking sheets; using your spatula, spread it out evenly.
- Crisp in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice; turn off the heat, but leave the caramel corn inside until cool, an hour or more; break up any chunks.