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Recipes that appear in Idea Alley have not been tested by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Today's column features flavors that span the flavor spectrum — sweet and salty popcorn and fiery hot pepper sauce.

Jenni Duncan shares the sweet treat.

"My grandkids love making this," Duncan writes.

"We make this for them to give as Christmas gifts, but sometimes it doesn't leave the house!"

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

4 quarts plain popped popcorn

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups salted peanuts, mixed nuts or pecans

1 1/2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips

1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

Place popcorn on a lightly greased baking sheet or pan.

In a saucepan combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup and heat to boiling. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. (The kids love that a foam results). Stir well then pour over popcorn. Stir to coat all the popcorn. Bake 45 minutes, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Turn out onto wax paper and cool. When cool, break into pieces. Put half in a large container and mix nuts in. Reserve the rest.

Combine chocolate chips and shortening in a large bowl and microwave until melted, stirring often. It takes about 3 minutes but try 1 minute then stir, 30 seconds more and stir, etc. to avoid scorching the chocolate. Once you can stir it smooth, pour over your popcorn-nut mixture and toss to coat. Put it in the refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Mix with the reserved popcorn. Package in jars or baggies.

Makes about 4 1/2 quarts.

Duncan inquired about a recipe for hot pepper vinegar.

"My husband remembers his mother made a hot sauce. His childhood memory from the early '60s is that hot peppers were put in vinegar. We accidentally grew a hot pepper that is still prolific. Anyone remember that tactic and/or recipe," Duncan asks.

This version, adapted from a Steven Satterfield recipe in Country Living, can be made with any hot pepper or a mix of peppers.

Hot Pepper Vinegar

1 pound hot peppers, such as jalapeno, serrano, cayenne or a mix

1 quart apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Pack peppers into sterilized jar(s).

In a medium pot over high heat, combine the vinegar and salt; bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and ladle or pour hot vinegar over peppers. Seal. Allow jar(s) to sit for 1 week before using.

Makes about 1 quart.

Note: Although it is unlikely any undesirable bacteria would develop, because the peppers are not processed, I recommend storing the unopened jars in the refrigerator.


• Dairy-free chocolate ice cream Duncan.

• Meatloaf with Creole sauce like that served at the defunct Your Mama's Good Food for Debbie Oxandale.

Send recipe contributions, requests and culinary questions to Kelly Brant, Idea Alley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203; email:

Please include a daytime phone number.

Food on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: Popcorn, hot sauce cover all the bases

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