Spiced Pumpkin Seed Caramel Popcorn

Halloween’s over and I’m a little surprised by how much candy is left. Despite giving away handfuls of little nightmarishly-coloured sugar thingies, we still have a great big plastic cauldron-full sitting on the kitchen table… Not good. Every time I walk into the kitchen it’s squatting there, watching me, proffering it’s sticky fructose-laden goodies. Sure they taste good, but I’m not sure I can afford all the sleepless nights that follow.

We’ve amassed quite a pile of pumpkin seeds from this year’s bunch of jack-o-lanterns, and I think I can whip up a quick snack with enough “Om nom nom” to rival the Nestle company’s junk pile. Goodbye individually-wrapped stomach bombs, hello sweet and spicy popcorn! Yeah! And a scary movie to honour the Halloween that really-wasn’t!

The blend of spices that I’ve mixed up for the pumpkin seeds is a riff on the Memphis Blues All Purpose Dry Rub from the temple of all things smokey and delicious, Memphis Blues BBQ House. The original recipe can be found in the Memphis Blues Cookbook and can instantly increase the awesome of any food simply by sprinkling it on top.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (makes a small bowl full)

  • 325g Pumpkin Seeds (scooped out of your Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns and rinsed clean of any orange pumpkin gunk)
  • 2 tbls Olive Oil
  • 1 tbls. Sugar
  • 1 tbls. Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbls. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1tsp. Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp. Dried Mustard
  • ½ tsp. Dried Chipotle Pepper
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

 

Method

(You’ll want to pre-heat the oven to 350˚F)

Toss the pumpkin seeds with the oil and spices and lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Pop it into the oven. The seeds will roast completely dry in about 30 minutes and must be removed from the oven, checked and stirred around at least twice during that time. It is essential that the seeds be crunchy all the way through! Don’t worry it they start to darken near the end. Check them, make sure they don’t have a bitter (burnt) taste and return them to the oven… Have faith.

Caramel Popcorn (makes one big cauldron full)

Ingredients

  • 70g (2 ½ oz.) Butter
  • 70g (2 ½ oz.) Brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (22ml) Whipping Cream
  • ½  teaspoon (2.5ml) Vanilla Extract
  • 2 bags of Microwave Popcorn (once they’re popped, it’s about 130g)

 

Method

  1. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and pour in the brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to emulsify the two dissimilar ingredients into one harmonious, golden whole… Cooking can really make you think about life, the universe, and everything, eh?.
  2. Whisk in the cream and vanilla and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the sauce to a low simmer and get it off of the burner. Pour into a heat-proof container and let it sit there for about ½ an hour at room temperature. Slowly the sauce will coagulate into a thicker, more manageable syrup consistency.
  3. Pop the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag, or just hit the “Popcorn” button that some microwaves have, and pray to the appliance Gods.
  4. Dump the popcorn into a bowl large enough to toss it all around. Mix the popcorn with the spiced pumpkin seeds and drizzle the caramel sauce overtop. Give it all a quick toss (get in there, use your hands) and pour it into your decorative Halloween cauldron. Sprinkle any remaining pumpkin seed spice overtop with a few shots of hot sauce… Om nom.

 

Totally Optional Stuff : If you’ve got a lot of hungry people with a lot of hands in the popcorn cauldron then you won’t have to worry about it sitting around and getting soggy. But if you think it’s not getting eaten fast enough and the combination of caramel and hot sauce is killing the crunch, just fire it out onto a sheet pan and crisp it in a 350˚F oven for 15 minutes.

And now, we need a movie to watch! I can think of no better than the sick, twisted, hilarious cult gore-fest that is Return Of The Living Dead (1985). Careful, it’s a bit NSFW.

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