Cooking with Caitlin: Like a Reds win, homemade cracker jack can be a treat to savor

CINCINNATI - WCPO is pleased to welcome food blogger Caitlin MacEachen Steininger  as a contributor. She has been tickling the food fancy of her family and friends since third grade. Check back each Monday for a new recipe!

To find the Reds’ 8-2 win at the end of their series at the Cubs Sunday night was like finding a surprise treat at the bottom of your box of popcorn: You so hoped it would be there and it brings you to your feet when it is.

With this delicious truth in mind we present to you our Porkopolis-kissed twist on the tastiest tradition at the ballpark: Queen City Cracker Jack.

We’ve put sweet and salty to work together like Cozart’s hitting and Bailey’s pitching in this homerun of a recipe.
Make a double batch of Jack and divvy it up over the series with the Pirates that starts tonight.

Offer half as a stand-alone sweet in your game-time spread, and crumble the rest over ice cream sundaes for a dessert that’s sure to be a highlight of the whole season.

Queen City Cracker Jack


  • 1 lb. Bacon
  • 6 cups Unflavored Popcorn, popped
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Sorghum
  • 1/3 cup Bacon Fat
  • 2 Tbsp. Water
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • Salted Peanuts


  1. Slice your bacon into lardons and cook in a sauté pan until golden brown and crispy.
  2. Strain the bacon from the fat and drain on a paper towel; reserve 1/3 cup of the bacon fat.
  3. In a small sauce pot combine the brown sugar, sorghum, bacon fat, water, and salt.
  4. Whisk together over medium-high heat and cook until it reaches a temperature of 250 degrees (approximately 3-5 minutes).
  5. Remove the hot caramel from the burner and whisk in the vanilla and baking soda.
  6. Let cool for a minute and then pour over the popcorn.
  7. Using a spatula, coat the popcorn with the caramel.
  8. Add the crispy bacon and salted peanuts and stir together.
  9. Transfer the popcorn to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  10. Place in a 250-degree oven and bake for 1 hour, tossing once every 20 minutes so everything cooks evenly.
  11. After an hour, remove from the oven and let cool.
  12. Transfer to an air-tight container and store on the countertop.

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes + 1 hour Yields: 6 cups

Tips + Tricks

If you can't find sorghum, you can substitute light or dark corn syrup.
Add more savory to this mix by sprinkling in some fresh cracked pepper or chopped fresh rosemary.

(Photos by Cara Hummel Photography)

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