Oscar Gold: Cracker Jack

Feb 20 2013

by Nealey Dozier

Southern Recipe Posted by Nealey Dozier.

It’s Oscar time, which comes with a lot of fanfare in my house. While I may live for all things food, my fiancé lives for all things film. In our time together I have taught him the pleasures of eating well, and he has taught me how to recognize a story told right. All of our best memories involve a good meal, a good movie, or (even better) a little bit of both.

It’s a yearly tradition for us to watch all of the best picture nominations before the big day. This year we’ve been scrambling to finish and we still have four more left to go! We are planning on squeezing in two “double features”—Les Mis/Life of Pi on Wednesday, and Amour/Argo on Friday. I am sure all of this extra screen time will be intense, but well worth it in the end.

On Sunday we will invite all our fellow movie buff friends over for an Oscar viewing party. I will serve classic martinis and retro hors d’oeuvres, and we’ll all make a few friendly wagers on the final results. And while there may be some major upsets in the bunch, these homemade Cracker Jack are a shoe-in to take down the house. It is the quintessential movie night snack and, on awards show Sunday, it’s guaranteed to bring home the gold… statuette, that is.

Homemade Cracker Jacks
Serves 10 – 12 (or 1, if you like it as much as I do)

16 cups freshly-popped popcorn*
2 cups roasted, lightly salted peanuts (Spanish or regular)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 250°. Toss the popcorn and peanuts together in a large mixing bowl (or divide into 2 bowls).

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Working quickly, pour hot caramel over the popcorn and gently toss until all the pieces are evenly coated. (I found it was easiest to toss with my hands once the caramel cooled a little bit.)

Divide the popcorn mixture in half between 2 greased baking sheets, spreading into a thin, even layer. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for 50 minutes. Sprinkle Cracker Jack with a little sea salt and allow to cool in pans for 20 minutes. Separate the popcorn into individual pieces with your hands before serving. This is best eaten the day it’s made but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

*I used 3 (3.5 ounce) bags natural, lightly salted microwave popcorn.

(this recipe was originally created by Nealey Dozier/Dixie Caviar for

Enjoy this southern recipe in this collection of our southern cuisine – let’s gather the best southern food ideas for The Southern Coterie cookbook.


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