I didn't have many neighbors growing up so, on Halloween night, my mom would load my brother and I into the car and take us to trick-or-treat on my grandma's street. It was just a dead end, country road with only about 10 houses, but it was a full-sized Snickers bars, decorations that would put haunted houses to shame, Halloween heaven.
One of the stops I remember most fondly looking back, however, was actually one of the quieter ones―my grandma's across-the-street neighbors, Freda and Bill. They were old enough that they had grandchildren of their own, but I think that rarely a week went by that either my grandma or Freda weren't crossing the road to deliver a treat or greeting or some small bit of neighborly assistance.
And on Halloween, just for the special trick-or-treaters that she knew well, Freda made the most amazing popcorn balls.
I don't know who was more excited to knock on Freda's door, my mother or me, but we'd eagerly stand under her porch light until she answered. Then, of course, there was the obligatory invitation inside so that she could see our costumes. Then―oh, the agonizing wait―the tub of popcorn balls would come out.
Freda always offered my mom a popcorn ball too―thus her excitement―and we'd dig into them right then and there. My mom liked to talk with Freda anyway, so we'd sit right around her kitchen table as we happily crunched on our sticky treats.
Thankfully, during one of those sessions my mom was smart enough to ask for the recipe.
When I finally wheedled it out of her earlier this month (the words, “I'm carrying your grandchild for goodness sakes!” may have been uttered), I was amazed at how simple it is.
Like many of her generation, Freda used “oleo”, or margarine, but I subbed real butter to no ill-effect. Just use what you normally have on hand.
Do be sure to use stove-popped popcorn―don't cheat and try to use the microwave stuff―and pull out the largest mixing bowl you can get your hands on to mix everything together. Other than that, these really are, as the recipe card my mom read me over the phone to me proclaims, “Easy Popcorn Balls”.
Freda's Easy Popcorn Balls (Makes about 15 baseball sized popcorn balls.)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 cups miniature marshmallows
- ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
- 4 quarts popped popcorn (takes about ¼ pound unpopped kernels)
Melt the brown sugar, marshmallows, and butter in a large saucepan, stirring constantly. Using the biggest bowl you have, pour the marshmallow mixture over the popped popcorn and mix well. Using clean, buttered or oiled hands form the popcorn into balls. Place the balls on waxed paper to cool, and store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap for trick-or-treaters.