East Tennessee Caramel Popcorn

We’ve been traveling across our state a lot this year, and two of our favorite Tennessee products have to be country ham and sorghum molasses (or sorghum syrup or sweet sorghum — whatever you want to call it). For a Christmas snack, we decided to put those flavors together, and they’re very happy that way.

East Tennessee Caramel Popcorn

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

East Tennessee Caramel Popcorn


  • 4 ounces country ham
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sorghum molasses
  • 6 cups popped popcorn


  1. Slice the ham as thinly as possible. If you can see through it, you've got it about right. Try not to snack on too much.
  2. Mince the sliced ham.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the ham as you would bacon. You want to render as much of the fat from the ham as possible and slightly crisp the ham, about 5 minutes. Drain the cooked ham on a paper towel-lined plate. Leave any grease still in the pan.
  4. With the heat still on medium, add the stick of butter. Because country ham is salty, using unsalted butter is a must. Allow the butter to melt, about three minutes.
  5. Add the sorghum molasses and begin stirring until the syrup mixture comes to a rolling boil. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until a caramel forms that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon or leave a clear path when you drag a spoon through it along the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat, and work quickly to add it to the popcorn while it is still hot.
  6. Pour about half of the popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Add half of the fried ham and half of the prepared caramel. Using tongs or buttered hands, toss the popcorn to blend the ham and caramel through evenly. Add the rest of the popcorn, ham, and caramel and repeat. Expect some popcorn balls to naturally form.
  7. Let the caramel popcorn rest for 5 minutes before enjoying.

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