Makes 8 to 10
Feel free to mix in peanuts, cashews or pecans, too.
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups cane syrup, preferably Steen’s
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
4 quarts popped corn, preferably not microwave popcorn, lightly salted
12 ounces bacon, fried and chopped into crumbles (should have about 1 cup), fat reserved
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for coating hands while shaping balls
¼ teaspoon baking soda
In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt the sugar, syrup, 2/3 cup water, vinegar and salt over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 250 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully so the mixture does not boil over.
In a very large bowl, toss the popcorn and bacon. Cover a work surface or large baking tray with waxed paper. When the syrup mixture is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the butter, reserved bacon fat and baking soda; it will foam up. Mix well.
Pour about 2/3 of the syrup over the popcorn and bacon. Working very quickly, mix well with a wooden spoon. Grease your hands with butter. Being very careful not to burn your hands, shape the popcorn mixture into softball-size balls and place them on the prepared surface to cool; this is best done by more than one person, so the syrup does not have time to harden. As the mixture begins to dry, stir in the remaining syrup.
Cool and serve. Or wrap individually in waxed paper and store in an airtight container.