Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kettle Corn

Several years ago, we were at a fair and a guy was making kettle corn.  It is really quite a sight.  They heat up a huge copper kettle and pour the corn into it.  As it pops and flies around, they use an oar to keep it stirring and to stir in the sugar which melts and sticks to the corn.  It's simple and exquisite at the same time.

So I decided I could surely make it at home.  With some experimentation and a few minor burns, I worked it out.  I have no idea how many batches of kettle corn I have made since, but I will say we have used about 75 pounds of popcorn since I figured it out!

Equipment:  I use this popper kettle; it's new but fashioned the old way.  It cuts down on burns but makes the stirring easy.  They retail for $20-30, but are often deeply discounted right after Christmas.  Warning:  They really aren't made for kettle corn, so plan on replacing them every few years.  It's kind of hard on them.
You will have to experiment a bit with your stove to find the perfect heat level; you need enough heat to let the steam build up in the kernels without burning.

You will need a large bowl handy;  the big pyrex bowl is the perfect size.

  • 1 Tablespoon cooking oil (not "popcorn" oil -yuck)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a couple of pinches of salt
  • Pour the oil in the popper and turn the stove up to medium high.
  • Add the popcorn and casually turn the crank to keep them moving
  • When the corn begins to pop. quickly open the lid, dump in about 1/3 of the sugar, and crank like mad. 
  • You have about wait until the good popping resumes and add half of the sugar this time.
  • Give it a couple of stirs and quickly add the rest.
  • Stir like mad
  • When the popping slows quite a bit, turn off the heat and dump it quickly in the bowl.  Whatever is stuck the bottom will likely burn so hurry.
Things I've learned:
  • Don't leave that lid open too long and don't do this barefoot!  
  • You will get some on the floor;  dogs love it.
  • You might be able to make two batches; after that it will burn right away.
  • Have a wooden spoon handy to help get it out when it's done.
  • Don't try to multitask; this job is like a crazy show;  you will be super busy and then it will all be done.
  • It'svery hot when it comes out.  It's melted sugar.  Let it cool off first!  In about 5 - 7 minutes, it will be cool enough for even little ones.
  • No butter is needed and if you add it to the kettle it burns, if you add it afterward it makes the corn soggy.
  • Don't add the sugar too early or you will have a nasty burned mess that looks like caramel but tastes acrid and horrible.
 Have fun -- and let me know if you are brave enough to try it!

PS-- was going to put a picture but got a new foster friend, so busy busy.  It's nice looking popcorn.  Enough said.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Do-Over

The hardest part of parenting for me is remembering that it is not a straight line.  We cannot just pick a course and stay on it; human nature does not work that way.  Instead, we make our best choices and then do our best to stick with them.  When we notice things are falling apart, it's time to regroup.

I explained this to the "bigs" yesterday.  We don't always do things the way we want to.  Sometimes I'm not the best parenting leader.  I realized I had been yelling orders above the din rather than taking the time to meet each child's eyes and calmly tell them what I wanted them to do.  I needed a "do-over." 

I learned this concept from my friend Sharon some 20 years ago.  When her son Marcus, then a toddler, made a poor choice, she offered him a "do-over."  The do-over works like magic.

For example, yesterday Tinker was responding to me in a sassy voice and I said, "Let's have a do-over." 

I repeated my request; she used a disrespectful voice again.  I offered another do-over.  She got the hang of it this time.  She answered calmly, then  spontaneously hugged me and ran off joyously to play.   I don't always remember to offer the do-over and it isn't always appropriate or feasible, but it is a fantastic teaching tool.

I love the amnesty it offers.  I think unconditional forgiveness teaches a lot more than a time out.  I know I need forgiveness from time to time myself.  Thanks, Sharon, for the lesson!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Experiences

I posted a funny story about The Captain here.   Again, because of copyright, I can't tell the story here!  But it's just a quick jump!

Sunday, July 10, 2011