2 Ideas--Both lead you into 'dangerous-good' territory:
2. POPPY CHOW popcorn--ok, this isn't caramel corn, but if you make it and mix it with your caramel corn, then you WIN.
Dulce de Leche Caramel Corn
I do mine in the microwave. Sometimes I add spices in the fall (1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper) with the baking soda. Total time is about 15 minutes (including getting out the air popper and popping the corn)
Microwave Caramel Popcorn
8 cups popped popcorn
½ cup brown sugar
2 T corn syrup
¼ c butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla extract
Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt into a glass mixing-bowl. Microwave on high for 60 seconds. Stir. Continue to microwave for 90, stirring every 30 seconds. Add soda and vanilla to mixture and stir well. Pour over popcorn in brown grocery sack and shake well. Fold down the top of the bag a few times. Microwave 45 seconds and shake bag (open and stir if in one large clump to break up.) Microwave 20 seconds more and shake, repeat. Pour out on waxed paper to cool.
I don't know about great, but easy and addictive, I learned from my grandmother. Probably the Karo syrup recipe somone else mentioned: 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of Karo. I put in a pinch of salt, unless I use salted butter. Granna always used "oleo" which was salted. Only instructions I can give are to cook in a small saucepan, on high, stirring frequently until it turns the shade of caramel you like. Too light will stay sticky, though. Pour over lightly salted popcorn (and whatever). I spread the popcorn out on sheet pans for getting good coverage.
Here is the recipe that I have used for years, and always gets rave reviews...
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 quarts popped popcorn (3 bags of microwave popcorn, unpopped kernels picked out)
1.Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place popcorn in a very large bowl or roaster pan.
2.In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat or place contents into grocery paper bag and shake.
3.Place in two large shallow baking dishes and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.
*** I have also drizzled melted white chocolate on the popcorn after it has cooled - HEAVEN
Other than the fancier Kettle corn- what I really like best is the classic Karo corn syrup recipe....then sometimes I add peanut butter and peanuts to it. Or for a really great sweet and savory junkfest.........I mix the classic recipe with cheetos and/or goldfish crackers.
I know....I'm not proud :)