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.

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