When I was growing up Halloween was a BIG DEAL. My mother would take all six of us kids and dress us up with a different theme each year. Our costumes were all home made and did I mention there was always a theme? But it wasn't just her. I grew up in a tiny village in upstate NY and folks loved fall and Halloween there.
I remember gathering apples at a nearby farm and taking them to a man down the road who had a cider press in his garage. We would press the cider then sell it at the high school football games minutes later. (Eight man on a side football by the way, it is a really small town.)
A week or so before the 31st there would be Fire Truck rides put on by the Volunteer Fire Dept. They would pile a bunch of kids on the back of a truck and drive us around town. It was ridiculous how much fun that was. And afterward there would always be cider and doughnuts upstairs at the Fire House. Those flavors remind me of fall.
As do popcorn balls. If my mother wasn't going to dress us up in store bought costumes, than she sure as hell wasn't going to hand out pre packaged candy. Popcorn balls were her thing. For years she handed them out, but then, sadly, the newer folks in town wouldn't take them as prepackaged candy was supposed to be safer. Booo, seriously, booo.
These are a classic, and the recipe below is hers. I've added a few notes to clarify for you. Please enjoy and pass them out to those who get how fantastical Halloween can be.
4 quarts popped corn (uncooked)
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
few grains baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pop corn [a pound]
Combine molasses,sugar and vinegar in a large pot. (You'll need a big pot as you'll see later on in the recipe.)
Boil until a little rattles against a cup [250* F] (The "rattles" direction was before candy thermemeters were so easily obtained. Use the candy thermometer, its easier and safer.)
Add butter,soda and flavoring. (This is where the big pot comes in, this mixture will foam up, BIG TIME. It's ok, that is supposed to happen.)
Pour into popped corn,stirring rapidly.
Wait about a minute for corn to cool enough to handle.
Rub hands with butter and form balls.
Cool and wrap individually in waxed paper.