Scary Good: On Hallowe’en the thing you must do, is pretend that nothing can frighten you. And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run, just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun. -19th Century Halloween postcard
Unlike my sister, who is a Halloween fanatic, I don’t usually pull out the stops for All Hallows Eve. Not because I wouldn’t love to decorate the house with all sorts of Miss Havisham kind of creepiness, crank up some spooky sound effects, play some cheesy songs (Monster Mash comes to mind) and inundate the house with fog machines gone wild. But the truth is, we just don’t get any trick-or-treaters up here. Well, unless you count the masked furry, foraging four-legged kind. And, as much as I’d love to throw an adult themed bash (I’ve always wanted to have a costume ball!), none of our party peeps are in town. So, it’s just us, a huge bowl of my homemade caramel corn (or as I like to call it, “Crack(er) Jack”—more on that in a minute) and a horror movie marathon (but not the slasher kind).
Adam and I will probably nonchalantly carve one of our pumpkins, too, and light it up for good measure to ward off any evil spirits. But most likely, we’ll close the front gates, just in case we get any stray nosy teenagers who have heard ghost stories about the haunted forest La Tapada and want to look beyond the reaches of the wrought iron fortress. You know – when kids issue those double-dog-dare-ya’s that their friends must answer to avoid a permanent scaredy-cat epithet. Sometimes the mystery of a place sparks all kinds of legends. What they don’t know, is that the place really is haunted.
Kinda. Sorta. Well, Adam’s mom’s house is, for sure.
About seventeen years ago, Adam and I were staying at the main house (his parents were in Europe at that time) for several months, working on a music project (Ha! Didn’t you know that we’re musicians, too? And that when we first were together, we toured as an acoustic duo, Cheryl Adams? Adam on guitar. Me only on vocals. Well, because you do NOT want to hear Adam sing. Trust me on this one. But that was another life and dang it, I digressed yet again). One night, late, I roused Adam from sleep, and yawning, asked him to turn off the radio he left on upstairs.
“What radio?” he replied. We both laid there, facing each other, still as boards, and listened to what sounded like a cocktail party going on in the bedroom above us. We clearly heard people’s voices, laughter, soft background music playing and the distinct sound of glasses clinking. Without moving and my eyes big as saucers, I whispered, “Are you going to go up there?” He murmured, “Nope. Are you?’”
Uh, no, I don’t think so.
A few months ago, we were visiting with Adam’s mom at her house, chatting about this and that and about Halloween in general. She, who is very deaf and suffers from constant ringing in her ears, said (quite out of the blue), “You know, it was the strangest thing. The other night, I was in my bedroom and I swear, I thought I heard a cocktail party going on upstairs! Clinking glasses and everything. It sounded like people were laughing and having a grand time! Isn’t that crazy? My tinnitus must be getting worse.”
Everyone who tries this caramel corn from our Christmas Book calls it Crack(er) Jack, not only because of the similarity to that old favorite with the little sailor boy and his happy little doggie on the label, but because of the highly addictive nature of the stuff. Unlike the aforementioned, this one is packed with nuts, not just the one or two peanuts that you had to seriously work for, digging all around the sides and the bottom of the box to find them. Oh, and you can certainly make a batch for those little goblins who’ll ring your doorbell and ask for something good to eat on the 31st. But, you just might not want to put it all out because it will disappear quickly. It’s scary good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
We ran this recipe a few years back, some of you may recall, like our dear friend, Brooks (a.k.a. Cakewalker), who wrote a fabulous and almost embarrassingly flattering post about us and our “crack.” Don’t miss his Notes and Tips regarding this recipe, too – there’s some great ones there! Thanks, Brooks!
- unsalted butter, for the pan
- 12 cups popped corn
- 2 cups mixed deluxe nuts
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup light-colored corn syrup
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Generously butter a large, rimmed baking sheet. Place the popcorn and nuts in a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Place the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and molasses in a heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan. Whisk over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter melts. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla, baking soda and salt (mixture will bubble up violently).
- Pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn in a steady stream, stirring to coat evenly.
- Spread the popcorn mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1-1/2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and break up any large clumps. Cool completely.
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