Autumn is the kind of season that needs to be savored. I feel like I should apologize to anyone who doesn’t live somewhere with a pronounced seasonal change, who doesn’t get to watch the greens turn to yellows and crimsons, doesn’t feel the crisp October air. It’s probably one my favorite things about the world. And every year, I think how much shorter fall has become, how quickly it’s flown by. So every year after that, I try to make it last longer, try to enjoy every bit of it to the fullest. How do I do that? Partially, it’s talking: telling everyone who will listen that fall is the most beautiful season and—Did you know when leaves turn colors, they’re just shedding their outer layer and revealing what was underneath all along? (It’s true!) Partially, it’s slowing down: walking outside, breathing in the fresh air, opening the windows. And partially, maybe mostly, it’s eating: pumpkin-flavored desserts, rich stews, hot apple cider. You can eat these things any time of year, of course, but they’re best when the days darken and you pull out jackets again.


Friday night, while watching the first presidential debate, I mulled apple cider and popped popcorn kernels, because it’s fall. Here is what happened: In a very large pot on the stove, I poured two quarts of apple cider. Setting it on heat, I added cinnamon sticks (which are expensive but so pretty), cloves and brown sugar. I would’ve added a slice of orange, but I forgot to pick one up from the store. (I would add a lemon slice later instead, for appearance’s sake, and immediately regret it.) I covered the pot.

Meanwhile, in another very large pot, I tossed in enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Then I threw in popcorn kernels and added a lid, careful to angle it so steam could escape. Having never made my own popcorn, save for the kind you microwave in a paper bag, I doubted this would work. Yet in minutes, the pot’s glass lid was steamy and I heard the gentle Pop, Pop, Pop! the recipe promised. This rhythm continued for a bit, then it stopped. This was my cue. Off the heat came the pan, all the white kernels tossing into my greased bowl. I poured a heated peanut butter & honey mixture on top, mixed it all with a wooden spoon and Voila!

cider and popcorn

The popcorn, all gooey and crispy, reminds me of that party mix people make, with rice cereal maybe? It’s coated and creamy yet salty and savory. It’s tasty with the first bite but, I’d swear, better with each additional handful. And, if I do say so myself, it goes wonderfully with a fresh, steaming hot cup of mulled cider. Try it, presidential debate or not, and see if you don’t feel more seasonally festive.


Would it hurt your impression of me too much if I told you I had some for breakfast the next morning? Or that I brought some more to a friend’s house Saturday night? What if I told you I have such little self-control that I easily ate 70% of the entire batch, which, honestly, was completely unnecessary, what with the other good snacks all around me?

I think once you make it, you’ll understand. When the peanut butter and honey meld together into a hot, bubbling mixture, when they make an almost caramel glaze all over the popped kernels, it’s just… well, really fall.

Peanut Butter Popcorn
from The Kitchn at Apartment Therapy

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare a clean paper shopping bag or an oversized mixing bowl. Heat a large heavy pan over medium heat and film the bottom with vegetable oil. Add the popcorn, shake to distribute and then put a lid on the pan. Leave a small crack for steam to escape. When the popcorn starts popping, shake vigorously to make sure the kernels pop evenly. When the popping slows, take the pan off the heat.

Pour the popcorn into the paper bag or bowl to cool, being careful to leave any unpopped kernels in the pan. {Coated with peanut butter caramel, the unpopped kernels are a serious tooth hazard.} Lightly salt the popcorn to taste.

Mix the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for a couple minutes, and then remove from the heat and add the peanut butter. Stir vigorously until all the peanut butter is melted; then mix in the vanilla.

Immediately pour the peanut butter caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until it’s all coated. Once it’s mixed, you can put it in a serving bowl. Cover tightly after it’s cooled.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Robin Sue

    I have never heard of peanut butter popcorn before this. My hubby would love this. We are popcorn crazy people at our house, we love our whirley pop maker. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. amy

    that looks so amazingly decadent!
    i buy my spices at some large indian stores – they are SO much cheaper! see if you can find one in your area…

  3. rachelk

    popcorn is one of my all time favorite snacks :)

  4. Joanna

    Sounds good. Thanks for rubbing it in that I have no fall. I love fall; I tried explaining it to people down here but they just don’t get it because it is essentially between 80 and 100 all year long with no trees to change color except for brown when they die because it only rains here in late August and September. :( So I burn a pumpkin candle in my house and try to pretend like it feels like fall.

  5. Shannalee

    Robin Sue: I had never heard of a Whirly Pop Maker, so I had to look it up just now–looks like the perfect thing for sitting down with a movie. Very cool.

    Amy: Why didn’t I think of that?? Brilliant! I will try to do that sometime soon. We’re already big fans of samosas from the Indian store–especially the vegetable ones… yum.

    Rachelk: I’ve always love caramel mixed with regular, so some bites are salty and some sweet. Shelley’s parents used to each get one kind, when they were dating, and share from each other. Now that they’re married, the mix is their signature thing. So cute.

    Joanna: OH, you don’t have fall down there, do you? Well, make some fall snacks, at least, which are almost as good as experiencing the season northern-style. :)

  6. Lan

    Shannalee –
    i looove warm apple cider! i especially love it with some spicy rum! :) i bought a thermos last year for the express purpose of having hot cider by me on the couch all evening so i wouldn’t have to go into the kitchen to refill my mug. yes i am a bum. a lazy one at that. :)

    i have to say that i am not a fan of popcorn, having worked at a movie theater for some time in college, i’ve had my fill. however, flavored popcorn, once i start, i can’t seem to stop. you popcorn looks delicious and i just know it would make my orthodontist pissed at me. i love it!

  7. Elizabeth

    That looks so delicious! I also get my spices in bulk from the different ethnic stores around NYC. Such a good deal…

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