It’s sad to say, but I have yet to find any version of traditional candy corn sporting those day-glow florecent colors that aren’t contaminated with honey, egg whites, gelatin, or some noxious combination of the three. I can’t even find a recipe, so I would have no idea where to start if I were to attempt recreating these tiny sugar bullets in a more vegan friendly way.
Scrapping that thought for the time being, why not go for something still sweet but quite a bit healthier: Caramel corn. Corn is frequently used as a symbol of the fall, so I think that this is a perfectly acceptable substitue for a seasonal treat. I’m also much more comfortable with serving this to loved ones based on it’s natural appearance, as opposed to real candy which look as though they belong in some cartoonish nightmare, much less in one’s mouth.
A golden sheen covered each kernel lightly, so it wasn’t an overpowering sweetness as one would encounter with other Halloween candies. Perhaps the corn was even lighter than the usual standby, Cracker Jack, since this recipe used regular popping corn, (“butterfly”) whereas most prepopped, flavored corn is a different shape (“mushroom.”) The mushroom type is used because it pops in a more uniform, spherical fashion, which lends itself to more thorough coating and agressive treatment, since there are fewer irregular bits that stick out and could possibly be broken off. Yet another example of why quality tends to decrease as production demands increase.
I had never made caramel before this venture, so I was slightly dreading all of the inevitable scraping and scouring of pots that was sure to follow, making for an unending cleaning effort. You can imagine my delight when all of the excess candy just wiped away in seconds under hot water. Who knew it was so easy, and why hadn’t I tried this sooner?
The recipe I used was infact called “Cracker Jane” as a spin off of the afore mentioned snack, and is found in The Garden of Vegan. My biggest complaint is that in my opinion, there are a lot of instances where this book is very vague when it comes to the types of sweetener or starch you should use. I get that you could substitute basically whatever you want in most situations, but for this one in particular, I don’t think you would be quite as happy with the results if you used anything other than brown sugar as the dry sweetener. I made a couple other modifications as well, since I only had light corn syrup, which I used without any detrimental effects. Oh, and in my household, putting nuts into caramel corn is an act of sacriledge. For fear of being disowned, I left them out and found that I agree that they sometimes do get in the way.
How ever you chose to do it, I highly recomend you start popping your corn right now. Trust me, I made only a half batch to test it out, and found that the every last kernel had been devoured within a day.