I think my favorite thing about Cracker Jacks as a child was the prize. I know the prizes were lame, to say the least. I found this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker and thought this would be a good treat for our vacation.
Homemade Cracker Jacks
10 cups of freshly popped popcorn
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup lightly salted peanuts
Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Pop the popcorn. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and then transfer the popcorn to the bowl.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup,
butter, salt and water, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Continue to simmer, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the vanilla and baking soda.
Immediately pour the hot mixture over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula
to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn until all the popcorn is
coated. Gently stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the
prepared baking sheet, spreading it out.
Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven,
and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn.
Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 10 cups cracker jacks.