Cinnamon Heart Popcorn Balls

16 cups popped corn
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil, optional
drop or two red food color, optional
2/3-1 cup red cinnamon heart candies

Preheat oven to 250F.

Butter a large metal bowl (must hold approx 2 gallons popped corn). Fill bowl with popped corn; place in oven to keep warm while preparing syrup.

Butter sides of heavy pan; combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and butter. Stirring, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cover with a lid to wash down sugar crystals from sides of pan. Cook, without stirring, to 248-2500 F or a softer hard ball stage.* Remove from heat and stir in optional food color and cinnamon oil.

Remove popcorn from oven, sprinkle with cinnamon candies; pour syrup over popped corn and gently stir to coat. Cool until popped corn is cold enough to handle. Shape into 3-inch popcorn balls. Allow to cool. Wrap each ball with plastic wrap.

* NOTES: Hardball stage is reached when a small amount of syrup dropped in cold water maybe formed into a firm but still pliable ball with fingers. Makes approximately 12 popcorn balls

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