We serve bowls of this gratis at the bar at BarBacon. Salty and sweet. Customers don’t know what to make of it, so they just keep eating—and thus, keep drinking. Mission accomplished.
Measure the rendered fat back into the pot; add additional canola oil as needed to make
Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until a few of the kernels begin to pop. Once the kernels begin to pop, cover the pot. Once the popcorn begins to pop at a rapid rate, start shaking the pan back and forth over the burner. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and immediately dump the popcorn into a wide bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda, vanilla, and pepper until smooth.
Pour the caramel over the popcorn and gently stir until coated.
Spread the caramel popcorn on the prepared sheet pan in an even layer and
Transfer to a large bowl and add the bacon. The popcorn will keep, tightly covered in a cool, dark place, for up to 3 days.
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