Ballpark Food III: Cracker Jack

Today’s tribute to baseball food falls on the 85th birthday of Yogi Berra, the colorful player and manager whose propensity for malapropisms has made him the Sam Goldwyn of Baseball.
My favorite, of course, is food related: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Happy Birthday, Mr. Berra!
As a chanteuse I can’t do a series on ballpark food without alluding to baseball’s signature song, the 1908 hit “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Historians make much of the fact that neither the lyricist, Jack Norworth, nor the composer, Albert Von Tilzer, had ever attended a baseball game when they came up with the song.
I’ve never seen a professional baseball game in person, but I still understand the place of the sport in American culture—and clearly so did Norworth and Von Tilzer.

Nowadays few Americans recall that the song has verses. Here they are as they appeared in the 1908 sheet music (along with the more famous chorus, of course!) in an early Edison cylinder recording.

Cracker Jack predated the song and this recording, making its mass-market debut in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (It was then called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts,” not receiving its name for a few more years.)
I love caramel corn—and CJ is nothing but caramel corn with a hint of molasses.
I’m afraid you’ll have to provide your own prizes……..
2 quarts freshly popped popcorn
1 cup roasted shelled peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, VERY firmly packed
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 generous tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Mix together the popcorn and peanuts and place them on a large jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) in the preheated oven.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining ingredients. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid reaches about 260 degrees. It should form a definite but pliable ball when inserted into cold water.
Remove the popcorn and peanuts from the oven. Quickly but gently pour the caramel mixture over them and stir. Return the pan to the oven.

Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes and making sure that all of the solid material is covered with the coating. If it starts to stick to the pan earlier, remove it from the oven; you’re aiming for Cracker Jack, not peanut/popcorn brittle!
When you remove the pan from the oven, transfer the Cracker Jack to sheets covered with waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 quarts of candy-coated popcorn with peanuts. Don’t forget to add a prize or two!

This 1907 Cracker Jack postcard featured President Teddy Roosevelt (Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

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6 Responses to “Ballpark Food III: Cracker Jack”

  1. commonweeder says:

    Tinky – I love crackerjacks! When I had my first kettlecorn I thought it might be something I could make at home. But I would never bother. What a disappointment. Your recipe on the other hand, looks like the result would be real crackerjacks. I’m ready to try. Thanks.

  2. Mattenylou says:

    Nice post! What a great childhood memory, having my very own box of Cracker Jack! The excitement of the whole thing, to find that wonderful prize in the bottom of the box…. I couldn’t wait, shaking the box, hoping the prize would come within my grasp. I remember having a corner of my desk drawer, just for those prizes… little charms, tiny booklets, worthless in value, but so special to a little kid.

    I think I’ll wait for a dry sunny day to make your recipe… sounds good!

    I can’t believe you’ve never experienced a real live baseball game. I’d ask you to go, but the Sox have lost every time I’ve been to Fenway, so I stopped going.

  3. Oh Tinky-You made me want to go to a baseball game! I haven’t been in so long, my daddy used to take my brother and me to Atlanta Braves games when we were little and I really do miss it (and the Cracker Jacks:) But now I know I can make it at home. Thanks!

  4. Grad says:

    Tinky, you’re probably too young to remember when Cracker Jacks came with real prizes – I mean real ones, like small tin trucks, and little rubber baby dolls (I used one of those one Christmas to put into the manger of our Nativity Scene), and whistle rings. The song reminds me of my dad watching the Cubs play baseball (when it was only played in the sunshine), and the song was bellowed out at the 7th inning stretch. Good post.

  5. tinkyweisblat says:

    Thanks, kids. Mattenylou, I wouldn’t want to jinx the Sox by going to a game with you, but I do appreciate the thought! Happy munching, all.

  6. So that’s what Cracker Jack is!! It’s mentioned in a Meat Loaf song and I never knew what it is!

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