Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Old Fashioned Kettle Corn

Did you know that the perfect kernel humidity for popping pop corn is 14%?  No?  Really?  You mean this isn't a universally recognized and randomly memorized fact?  Are you sure?  Hmm... I guess it's really only something you would know when dating the son of the son of a popcorn corn farmer. 
But of course you know it's all about the humidity if you want large fluffy popped corn and not a lot of old maid's at the bottom of your pot.  Right?  No, not that one either? 
I suppose you might ask what an old maid is too.  Huh...  there's a lot more to being the girlfriend of the son of the son of a popcorn corn farmer than I originally thought.  Oh, and old maids are the kernels left behind, those that are un-popped.  Haha, get it?  No, really, I swear that is what they are actually called. 

Being somewhat close to related to a popcorn farmer, you learn things like this.  And you also end up with a few container-fulls (of course, air tight, remember the humidity!) of popcorn kernels.  Subsequently, when you see popcorn recipes, you kinda get excited.  Even more so, when you have been sans microwave for 4 months now and are starting to jones for a 90 calorie bag of kettle corn.  And though I doubt this is 90 calories, it sure went down quickly.

It came together even faster, although I am lucky to be dating the owner of a nifty-difty, home-fashioned pop corn popping pot (see right).  But, the original recipe suggests it could be made with a big pot and spoon.  So you could try that, or find your own son of a son of a popcorn corn farmer.  Is that getting old yet?   Anyways...

Ben and I made this last Sunday, before I headed home from Chi-town.  We ate the majority of it in the next hour and Ben polished off the rest later that night. So you know it was tasty.  That being said, we both had the same critique.  It is one dimensional.  You really only get a single note.  I'm not sure if that's because the brown sugar didn't caramelize as well as white would have or what.  My short lived research on the subject revealed that most recipes stick to oil, sugar and salt, so I'm not sure what it could have been missing.  A dash of a cayenne maybe and a little less salt might be worth a shot.  A small sprinkle of, what else, cinnamon?
Or, and this just came to me... popping in flavored oil.  I bought a bottle of meyer lemon olive oil a while ago.  Just imagine, lightly lemony, light sweet, just a hint of salt, freshly popped popcorn!  Not your traditional kettle corn granted, but that would have gotten old fast.  Just an idea...

Old Fashioned Kettle Corn
Inspired by Marcus Samuelsson

Don't worry about buying a whole jar of un-popped corn.  Popcorn is not only a delicious, but when done right, nutritious snack, dessert, what have you.  Did you know that popcorn counts as a whole grain?  And that you're supposed to be getting lots of whole grains every day?  That's what I call two birds with one stone.  Pop up some corn plain and top it with freshly grated cheese and chopped herbs.  Or mix it warm with mini chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  You may not even miss microwave popcorn... or you know only miss those 90 calorie bags just a little, teensy bit.

1/2 c. unpopped popcorn kernels
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3. Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 Tbsp. sea salt

In a large pot, over medium high heat, let oil get hot.  After a few minutes, test temperature by throwing in a few kernels.  If they pop quickly, you're ready to go.  Add kernels and brown sugar and quickly stir well, so kernels are well coated.

Put lid on pot and wait for kernels to start popping.  Grab pot (which will be hot, hot, hot) with potholders and swirl kernels around pot.  Get the kernels moving in a circular motion, with the lid on, continually moving to avoid burning the sugar.  Take pot occasionally off flame if necessary.

When popping how slowed and there are a few seconds in between pops, take pot of flame.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Pour popcorn into large bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.  Add a little at a time, tasting until seasoned correctly.  Enjoy!

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