2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
4 bacon slices
1/3 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup cashews, toasted and chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high. Add one popcorn kernel; cover the Dutch oven and wait for the kernel to pop. Once the kernel pops, add the remaining kernels; cover and cook, shaking the Dutch oven often, until the popping begins to slow, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let stand until the popping stops, about 1 minute. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl.
Return the Dutch oven to medium. Add the bacon slices, and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Crumble the bacon. Add the bacon, pecans, and cashews to the popcorn.
Stir together the sugar, maple syrup, water, salt, and 1 tablespoon reserved bacon drippings in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Cook over medium-high until a candy thermometer inserted in the mixture registers 275°F, about 12 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in the vanilla.
Immediately drizzle the hot syrup over the popcorn mixture while stirring with a silicone spatula coated with cooking spray. (Syrup won’t stick to it.) Carefully form the mixture into 12 (2 ½ to 3 inch) balls (about 2/3 cup popcorn mixture per ball), being careful not to compact too tightly. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days. To make them easy to hand out for snacks, put each ball into a paper sandwich bag to keep them from sticking together, and store them in an airtight container.