Popcorn! Popcorn! Popcorn!
Popcorn is and has been a favorite snack food in North America for thousands of years. By the time Columbus landed in the Caribbean the Native Americans were growing over 700 varieties of popcorn. Corn is a very important part of our culture, and has many uses from cooking oil, to packaging material. Popcorn has been a staple part of our economy and consistent companion along with Junior Mints, Twizzlers, and Milk Duds, at 99% of our nation's movie theaters. Popcorn is America's number 1 snack food consumed at home, beating out potato chips, pizza, cookies and candy bars. Popcorn also possesses fantastic health benefits. Popcorn is loaded with fiber and has only 108 calories per 2 quarts of air popped corn. Popcorn is on the National Cancer Institution & American Cancer Society healthy choice list.
Popcorn can also be bad too! What I mean is oowy, gooey, chewy butter toffee, buttery movie theater butter, original caramel corn, sinful yet satisfying.
While growing up in Toronto I spent many summer days in a wonderful place called Center Island. It would cost 75 cents to ride the ferry to the island and $6.50 to get an all day pass to ride the rides. My most memorable moments were riding the bumper cars, the bumper boats, and buying a bag of delicious caramel corn. I would kill a summer allowance in a day, but I wouldn't care because I had my caramel corn. I would swear that it was the greatest popcorn in the world. As an adult my taste has changed plenty, and I consider myself a gourmet popcorn connoisseur, and I still haven't found many brands of popcorn to compare with those purchased at Center Island. A few brands have come somewhat close to that gourmet taste. For the real thing I recommend you visit our Gourmet Popcorn Page and order a bag of Baked Caramel Corn for that authentic home made caramel corn taste. Bailey's Butter Rum if you like butterscotch, or Hawaiian Almond Crunch if you love Coconut and Almonds.
When it comes to air popped and microwave popcorn I must tip my hat to the King of the Kernels, Orville Redenbacher®. They carry a line of great tasting popcorn from light to movie theater style butter. I find that they are very consistent with the quality of the corn, the bags normally have a higher popping percentage (yield), and the air popped kernels have a fantastic taste. Pop Secret® makes a good popcorn too, as well as Thrift Maid® and Act II® (butter flavor and caramel). I don't recommend the Cheese Flavor Act II® popcorn.
The Inside Out Theory
Most store bought popcorn comes with a set of instructions. What they all have in common whether it be microwave, air or pan popped, popcorn is heated till it's really hot, the moisture inside the kernel forces the kernel to burst and expand actually turning the kernel inside out. The end result is glorious popcorn. Check it out for yourself look at the popcorn and see where the hue is, on the inside.
How Do You Make This Stuff Anyway??
Microwave popcorn normally comes in a 3 ounce package and takes around 2 minutes 30 seconds to cook in a 1000 watt machine. Remember cooking times will vary due to the size of the bag, and the strength of your microwave. Please don't leave your popcorn unattended, when the mad rush of popping has slowed down and there is around 2 to 3 seconds between pops your corn is done. If left too long you're going to have some burnt kernels and in my personal opinion they taste quite nasty (plus they stink). The popcorn is flavored in the grease it is cooked in, salty butter flavored grease. The cooked shelf life is short, a day if lucky, depending on the amount of butter (grease) on the popcorn. The general consensus is the more the butter, the more it will taste waxy as it ages.
Microwave popcorn tip: Store uncooked microwave popcorn in the freezer and pop as normal to produce a higher yield (less kernels).
To hot air pop your corn first you need to get a decent hot air corn popper. A good one would be the West Bend® Poppery II® corn popper. Hot Air poppers use no oil for fewer calories and no cholesterol, they have a lower cost per serving than microwave brands, pops four quarts of popcorn in about three minutes, doesn't ever burn the corn and has a longer cooked shelf life, considering you don't dump all kinds of grease or butter on it. If you find the hot air popcorn too dry, or bland there is an easy way to spruce it up, lay the cooked popcorn out flat on a baking sheet, spray a light coating of cholesterol free cooking spray on to the popcorn and sprinkle on some extra fine grain salt, or whatever your taste buds are in the mood for, such as Parmesan cheese, jalapeno salt, Nestle Quick® chocolate (or strawberry) powder. Don't forget to mix it all up, spread the topping evenly over the popcorn the best you can.
Pan cooked popcorn, yes some people still pop it this way!!
Here's how it's done:
1. Find a heavy or large deep pan with a lid.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil.
3. When one kernel dropped into the hot oil pops, pour in 1/3 cup of pop corn (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan, no more than a kernel deep).
4. Reduce heat to medium.
5. Cover and shake allowing steam to escape, until the popping stops.
6. Salt to taste and enjoy.
Normally the same corn can be used for the hot air popper and for pan popping, and you can buy a big bag for a cheap price. Beware, not all hot air pop corn is the same. Again I will have to commend Orville Redenbacher's ® brand and for their glorious popcorn. Jolly Time® makes a decent pop corn using a high popping hybrid of yellow pop corn. What this all means is try Orville first and be experimental, try different varieties, even the colorful ones, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Popcorn can be served as a snack, at all special occasions and events, and is loved by most people young and old. It's a vegetable so vegetarians can enjoy it as well. Two words that best describe why I love popcorn is "Delicious Fun."
Date Last Modified: 9/24/01