Friday, July 18, 2014

Let's Get Poppin'!

There are some things that I don't think much about when I make them, because it's just so routine to me.  And every once in a while, someone is so impressed by one of those things that I have to stop and reevaluate the situation.  "Hold up...what did I just do?  Is it really that cool?  Why would that be?"

Stove-popped popcorn is one of those things.  It's just how I make popcorn.  But anytime I do it when someone else is over, they say something like, "Wow!  You pop your own?" or "My grandma used to make popcorn on the stove, and nothing else tastes as good.  Wish I could do that!".

I'm pretty sure that every time this happens, I get one of those looks on my face.  One eyebrow up, scrunchy nose, trying to hold back a sassy comment and just nod and try to look like I'm focusing on the insanely difficult task that it must be.

But here's the's not hard.  It is absolutely delicious, but not difficult at all.  It seems to be almost a lost art.  And one worthy of bringing back into our repertoire.

Popping your own popcorn on the stove doesn't take much longer than throwing the bag in the microwave, and you avoid all the added junk, plus the highly-debated microwaves themselves.  Yes, you do have to be attentive to it, but do you really go and do something else when you throw a bag in the microwave, or do you stand there listening to it to make sure you catch that point where most of the kernels have popped and yet the popcorn has not started down that road to making your whole house smell like burning?

Perhaps it's a control freak thing.  Popping your own gives you a lot of control.  You control the type of popcorn you use.  Yellow, red, blue, markets have some great home-grown varieties these days, and you'd be surprised at how the differ in flavor.  You control what you pop it in.  I like coconut oil (kind of gives it that movie theater popcorn sense), but you can use grapeseed oil, your favorite nut oil, or any other that you prefer.  I'm not saying this would be good for you, but bacon fat popped popcorn sounds pretty intriguing.  You also control how much you make, and the toppings you put on it.  I recently popped a huge grocery bag full of popcorn that we took to a movie in the park event.  My daughter was having a sleepover so we had extra friends with us, and all the kids were able to snack on the popcorn without any problems.

Did I mention that it's not hard?

Here's what you do:  Get a large pot with a lid.  If you have one with a clear lid, it can be fun to watch the popping, but not necessary.

Pour or scoop in your oil, about 2 Tablespoons of it.  I really like to use coconut oil, but like I said, the fat is up to you.  Just make sure that it can take the heat...butter would be a tough one here to keep from scorching.

Pour in a quarter to a half cup of popcorn kernels.  You want a single layer of kernels on the bottom of your pot.  It kind of depends on how big your pot is, although if it starts popping over, you can always carefully pour a little of the top pops out into a bowl and keep popping.  Speaking from experience.

Put the lid on the pan, but slightly ajar, so steam can escape a bit.  Put it on medium high to high heat, and agitate it every once in a while, just to keep the kernels from burning.  The heat is the only thing even remotely tough about this process, because you want it high, but not burning, and it's different for every stove.  Find your perfect spot.

Kernels should start popping after a minute or two.  Keep an eye on things, making sure it doesn't pop over and, much like with microwave popcorn, taking it off the heat when you hear the popping stopping.  Pour it into a bowl to stop the cooking, and be careful of late-bloomers that will pop and jump out of the pot.

Then top with some melted butter and/or the toppings of your choice.  The kids and I found this popcorn seasoning at a local farm, and we are currently addicted to it!  It has an indescribably complex flavor, made with things like smoked paprika, lavender, and rosemary.  Slightly sweet, but savory as well, and just made to go on freshly popped popcorn.  Try your own mix of spices, or just a sprinkling of salt.

See?  Not hard.  Doesn't take long.  And I didn't mention this before, but MUCH cheaper than buying even the cheapest microwave popcorn. Even with the "fancy" blue popcorn I got from the farmer's market and a sprinkling of the "gourmet" popcorn seasoning, my cost per large batch (about 2 microwave bags' worth) is right around 50 cents.

Control.  Health. Savings.  Retro-coolness.  Doesn't get much better than that!  Give popping you own popcorn a try...I'll bet you'll be hooked!

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