Local co. cooks up Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn

January 29, 2010 12:53:15 PM PST
If you're going to be attending a Super Bowl party next week, you might be looking for an appropriate snack to bring. There's one Chicago company cooking up a storm for Super Bowl Sunday.

Most food companies make a few items, so they can keep their options open. But at the Salted Caramel Company, they -- or rather, she -- focuses on just one product. It's a little sweet, a little salty and a little earthy. And for your Super Bowl Sunday party, it just may be the silent surprise hit.

Some people take their diplomas from Kendall College and go on to work in restaurants. Ginna Haravon decided to make caramel corn. Really good caramel corn. Her business, Salted Caramel, only makes one thing: Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn.

"It really came from a challenge at a Super Bowl party. We were coming up with our menu, and it was really naughty Super Bowl food, really deep-fried, and we were kind of short on the sweet side. And my friends and I were talking about, could we do a bacon caramel corn? And they said yes you can, so I made bacon caramel corn," said Haravon.

In a rented kitchen in Forest Park, she starts by cooking bacon, rendering off the fat in a large pot.

"Some of the bacons had too much moisture to them, so when the caramel got incorporated it would absorb the caramel, and it was just really chewy. And not candied. So that wasn't as appealing as the bacon I'm using now," Haravon said.

For her caramel, she first adds sugar to a pot; then pours in a little bit of bourbon, some butter and light corn syrup. Everything must be heated on the stove until the mixture bubbles and begins to turn color. Haravon says the alcohol adds a nice depth to the caramel.

"I actually had some bourbon left over from Whiskey Sours, so I decided I was going to try it. 'Cause I thought it would be nice and it made such a difference. The caramel was so much richer and even smelled better when I was making it. And so after that I always had the bourbon in it," said Haravon.

While the caramel is slowly bubbling, she'll make her popcorn -- nothing too complicated there. Then as soon as the caramel is done, she carefully walks over to a giant bowl, filled with the freshly-popped popcorn and the dried, chopped bacon then pours the caramel over everything. She quickly folds the mixture together with a spatula, and then spreads it out on a silicone mat to dry. A final touch: a little sprinkling of salt, just to balance that sweetened caramel corn and smokey bacon. After much trial and error, sea salt was ruled out in favor of kosher salt.

"Some sea salt that I used had to much moisture to it, so as I seasoned it, it would just start to get tacky, so I would be really specific to what salt I would use too," Haravon said.

You can find the bacon bourbon caramel corn at the Flavour Cooking School in River Forest, as well as Birchwood Kitchen in Bucktown. But you can also order bags online from the Salted Caramel Web site.

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn
available at:

Flavor Cooking School
7401 W. Madison, River Forest

Birchwood Kitchen
2211 W. North Ave.

Or you can order directly at: