This is the story of a babysitter, a family tradition, a simple dessert and a fabulous late-harvest wine that combined to earn double gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in 2007. An unlikely combination perhaps… but then again, our culinary team is anything but ordinary.
Our story begins years ago, during the carefree childhood days of Kendall-Jackson Chef Eric Frischkorn. His babysitter started sharing some of her family’s caramel corn with her little soon-to-be-chef-charge. Eventually, Eric’s mom was given the recipe from the babysitter and started making it. Before you knew it, Mama Frischkorn had a fantastic recipe for caramel corn, and made it every Halloween to the delight of Eric and his friends. It became a tradition in the Frischkorn home, and long after Eric left the house, at harvest time, a package would arrive from his mom with the famous caramel corn inside.
Fast forward a few years, and we find Eric – now part of the Kendall-Jackson Culinary Team – chatting with head chef Justin Wangler about food & wine pairings to present at the upcoming Harvest Fair. He mentioned his mom’s recipe — after a little good-natured ribbing and a taste test — the culinary team thought it might pair well with the Late Harvest Chardonnay. They made a few batches, tweaking the recipe here and there, and came up with a pairing that showed promise.
That turned out to be a bit of an understatement. Mama Frischkorn’s humble caramel corn, presented with Kendall-Jackson’s Late Harvest Chardonnay, swept the competition that year, taking the highest honors, Double Gold, in the professional candy makers category and beating out a number of renowned chefs in the process.
Today, the famous Caramel Corn holds a permanent place on the Wine Center’s dessert pairing menu, and it continues to get rave reviews from our visitors.
This amazing sweet and salty treat pairs beautifully with the apple, vanilla and caramel in the Late Harvest Chardonnay — like a yummy, crunchy, fabulous caramel apple. It’s a beautiful thing.
Try it at home – it’s a snap to make. We’ll warn you now, it goes down easy! You may want to invite a few friends over to make sure you don’t eat the whole three quarts yourself.
- ½ cup Butter
- ¼ cup Corn Syrup (light)
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp. Vanilla
- ¼ tsp. Baking Soda
- 3 quarts Popcorn (air popped)*
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 300º.
- Grease a foil lined cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
- In a 1-gallon, heavy-bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add both the corn syrup and brown sugar, stirring to combine. Simmer until large bubbles begin to form without agitating the pan, approximately 4 minutes. Once the mixture comes up to temperature, continue cooking on medium heat and stir every thirty seconds for the next 4 to 6 minutes**. Turn off the heat and carefully whisk in the salt, vanilla and baking soda. Fold in the popped corn and gently coat without crushing.
- Transfer the popcorn to the greased cookie sheet and bake at 300º F. Gently stir every 5 minutes for 15 minutes, making sure all the popcorn is evenly coated. Remove and cool the finished caramel corn on wax paper. Once cool enough to handle, but not completely cold, break apart the popcorn bunches.
- *Air popped popcorn is preferred, but stove top method will also work.
- ** To check the color of the caramel at this point; carefully dip one piece of the popped corn into the pot. The caramel should be amber in color.