Earlier in the day you prepare the caramel, make the bacon: preheat your oven to 400˚. Lover a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then place the bacon strips on the sheet. Bake until crispy & caramel-colored, about 20 minutes. Drain the bacon, let it cool, then break the bacon into small pieces into a bowl.
Measure out the popping corn, salt, ground pepper & almonds into separate bowls so you are ready to add each ingredient once the caramel is made.
In a 2-3 quart heavy pot, pour in the oil & heat it over high heat. Add the popping corn & cover. Gently shake the pot continuously to prevent the popcorn from burning. Once all the kernels have popped, remove the lid to release the steam & set aside.
In a heavy wide-bottom soup pot, combine the sugar & water. Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon coated with nonstick cooking spray, stir together the sugar & water, making sure not to splash the sugar & water on the sides of the pot. Once the mixture becomes the consistency of wet sand, cover the pot and set it over medium-high heat. Check the color of the sugar mixture occasionally, and once it starts to turn an amber color, 7 to 9 minutes, uncover the pot and add the salt & pepper, if desired. Reduce the heat to low & cook for 30 more seconds, making sure not to let the caramel burn.
Remove the caramel from the heat & stir in the bacon & almonds.
Immediately add the popcorn, and stir well to completely coat the popcorn with the caramel, bacon & almonds.
Serve the caramel corn in a large bowl for all to enjoy!
"easy" pearls......Casina Rossa Sweet & Salt is a delicious blend of finely ground chocolate, vanilla, citrus peel, & salt, which is terrific to have on hand...I loved it in this recipe...it is available at ChefTools.com
...you can also pop the corn ahead of time as a timesaver...