Like with *salad dressings, I’m back on the bandwagon. This time it’s popcorn. Microwaves pop corn for us these days, thank you Paul & Orville. We buy cardboard boxes full of however-many cellophane-wrapped servings, remove cellophane, set dials, pop corn, pour it out of its bag into a bowl, dispose of bag. The convenience of pretty good popcorn comes with a pile of packaging.
Popcorn can still be purchased in bulk in a bag at any grocery store. Use a little at time, make a batch from scratch, watch a movie. Some things never change.
Beyond butter and salt, popcorn flavors have taken a villainous and delicious turn. There’s Parmesan, maple caramel, curry, chili, chipotle, and chocolate popcorn to name a few . . . and easy to make. A little longer than the 3-minute microwave variety, but not by much. Five or ten minutes to make your own batch from scratch. Same with the caramel corn + 60 minutes in the oven.
I thought paper bags would be another way to pop bulk corn in the microwave, but I’ve learned that most paper bags contain flavors – materials – that you probably don’t want in your kids’ or your own popcorn. Unless you know for sure you have ‘clean’ bags I’d abandon the microwave and try the stove top method. Plus, you know exactly what’s in the bowl because the mystery ingredients are your own.
At their remote Canadian cabin my grandparents made popcorn for us on their wood burning cook stove. There was no electricity, which was part of the allure. We’d sit around the fireplace with kerosene and candlelight and munch on freshly popped corn. I spent every summer there throughout my teens and knew, even as an adolescent, that the experience was something extraordinary. Stove top popcorn was part of it.
Basic Popcorn Recipe
Equipment: 2-quart pan with a lid. Or, use a larger pan and increase quantities.
Ingredients: 3 T high heat oil like canola or safflower/ 1/3 C popcorn/ 2 T butter/ 2 t salt. If you have a larger pan feel free to increase amounts. One third cup corn makes 6 – 7 cups popcorn, plenty for two, enough for three.
Directions: Place pan with oil over high heat/ Add popcorn/ Put the lid on and wait/ Every few moments shake the pan, either slightly off or on the burner in order to move the corn around/ You’ll begin to hear it sizzle after about a minute/ Turn heat down to medium high and continue shaking the pan, lift it off the burner from time to time/ The idea is to keep the pan hot enough to pop the corn without burning already-popped kernels/ When popping begins to subside turn the heat off, leave lid on and allow a few more corn kernels to pop/ Pour popped corn into a large bowl/ Melt butter in the same pan which is still hot, pour over the popcorn, add salt to taste and toss it all together/ This yields 6 – 7 cups of classic popped corn.
Classic +: Toss 6 – 7 C freshly popped corn with 2 – 4 T melted butter and, instead of salt, consider lemon pepper, chipotle, garlic salt, curry, chili, parmesan, sweetened cocoa . . . I haven’t tried all of these yet, but can recommend the chili and lemon pepper. For 6 – 7 cups of popcorn start with 1 tablespoon of whichever seasoning , stir and taste, add more as needed. Chipotle pepper is hot – start with 1 teaspoon, or, go ahead and be bold.
Parmesan Cheese Popcorn: Toss 6 – 7 C popcorn with 3 T heated olive oil, 1 C finely grated Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.
Maple Caramel Popcorn: Preheat oven to 250º. Over medium heat melt 1/4 C butter (1/2 stick) and stir in 1/2 C brown sugar/ Add 1/4 C maple syrup & 1/2 t salt/ Stir together and then allow to boil without stirring for four minutes/ Turn off heat, stir in 1/4 t baking powder and 1/2 t vanilla/ Stir together and pour over 6 – 7 C popcorn/ Mix thoroughly and spread evenly in a large parchment-lined casserole or baking pan/ Bake in oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes/ Pour into a bowl and I dare you to stop eating this stuff.
The low and slow baking crisps the corn and caramel making it even more delectable. Well worth the 60 additional minutes in the oven. After the baking it can be cooled, packaged and enjoyed for several days – if it lasts. Good luck with that.
I’m bummed that I tried making caramel corn at home and succeeded. I thought it would be daunting, it’s not, and now I have this caramel corn staring me in the face. Rich and addictive, it’s hard to ignore, and, oh great, it’s easy to make.
Caramel PopCorn @ allrecipes.com provided inspiration for this trial run, though I made a smaller amount and used maple syrup instead of corn syrup.
Humble beginnings for many popcorn possibilities. Pop on, no packaging.