Caramel corn for Red Sox home opener

Baseball, the Red Sox, and caramel corn have returned to Boston.

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff

The days are longer, the first spring flowers are blooming, and in general Bostonians seem a little friendlier. Here at the Monitor there is another harbinger of spring: The art department shows up in Red Sox jerseys and eats hot dogs and caramel corn in the middle of the newsroom.

Today marks the Red Sox's 99th home opener against the "evil" Yankees. Let's play ball!

Some traditions never die, but when a sea of red engulfs Fenway Park today, Red Sox Nation fans will be greeted with something new – concessions offering more sophisticated eats. The Boston Herald reports that the new fare includes, "chili dogs, double cheeseburgers, sushi from nearby Basho Japanese Brasserie and remodeled concourses with concession stands that serve yogurt, smoothies and hand-cut fresh fruit."

Did you say sushi? At Fenway Park?

“We have brand-new stars on the team," Fenway Park senior executive chef Ron Abell told the Herald. "So we needed brand-new food, too.”

Woah, woah, woah. Whatever happened to the simplicity of "buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack"?

Cracker Jack (candied popcorn) have been associated with the Boys of Summer ever since Jack Norworth immortalized them in his 1908 song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." That's right. The song has been playing longer than the Red Sox have played at Fenway Park.

The delicious sweet treat and the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch became so enmeshed with baseball fan culture, that on the 50th anniversary of the song Major League Baseball presented Norworth with a gold lifetime ball park pass.

The passion for candied popcorn persists. In 2004, Yankees Stadium tried to swap out Cracker Jack for Crunch 'n Munch but fans responded with such a huge outcry two months later Cracker Jack was back.

Here in Boston, Fenway sells more than 1,000 bags of Cracker Jack during a typical game, reported The New York Times in 2009.

“It’s part of the ballpark experience," Kevin Haggerty, a Fenway concessions manager, told the New York Times. "It is still a good snack. It sells well. It holds its place in the sales mix. And it’s in the song.”

We will see if Cracker Jack holds it place this year in the rush to buy fresh fruit, local salt water taffy, and assorted nuts at the Fenway's new Market Place.

The Monitor is less than a mile from Fenway Park but that doesn't mean it is any easier to get tickets, so trying out all this new, local, and good-for-you concession food will have to wait.

In the meantime, don your favorite team's jersey, pop your own caramel corn, and get settled in front of the TV. It's time to "root, root, root for the Red Sox!"

Winter is finally over.

Caramel corn
With thanks to Julie Fallon

1 cup unpopped corn (to make 5 quarts of popcorn)
1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Pop 5 quarts of popcorn.

Spray a deep baking dish with cooking spray. Pour popped corn into dish and set aside.

Over medium heat, melt butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and baking soda, stirring constantly. Bring to boil. Candy is ready when a ball forms when dripped into a glass of cold water.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in cream of tartar.

Pour over popcorn and stir til corn is coated.

Bake the caramel coated popcorn for 1 hour stirring a few times during the hour.

Take out of oven and dump on wax paper to cool.

Break apart and serve.

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