I have very fond memories as a child making popcorn balls with my mom. We would butter our hands and toss the ball from hand to hand very quickly since the gooey mixture was hot! We made something in the kitchen every Saturday and I always treasured this special time that we had together. At Christmas time, my mom and I would double and triple the recipe and wrap them in red and green plastic, tie a ribbon around the balls and hang them on our edible Christmas tree. Then about a week before Christmas, all the children in our neighborhood would come and take one special treat off of the tree!
Mix sugar, Karo syrup, water, margarine, and salt in a saucepan.
Cook until mixture becomes brittle when tried in cold water (270 degrees) on a candy thermometer. Make sure the mixture is only stirred occasionally to keep from sticking on the bottom. Otherwise, it will turn to sugar.
Add vanilla and stir.
Pour slowly over the popped corn; mix well. I use a wooden spoon to toss lightly using the over and under method (stirring will crush the popcorn).
Grease fingers generously with butter and form into medium-sized balls. I toss them from hand to hand quickly to keep the mixture from burning my hands! Working fast to make the balls is the key to success! The mixture hardens quickly.