Sunday, August 31, 2008

On the Supremacy of Kettle Corn

The first time I ate kettle corn was in Telluride, Colorado. It was at one of the town park concerts, possibly Widespread Panic, the year a monsoon hit about three songs into the first set causing flooding, the ruin of many a Birkenstock, and the cancellation of the show (WP generously entertained everyone with three sets and an encore the following night).

Anyway, the popcorn was awesome - with a perfect sweet and salty crust. I've been tinkering with it at home ever since and have settled on a recipe replicated all over the internets.

We've always had a dedicated popcorn pot (we also have an electric popper but I don't care much for the popcorn it produces). I got our present one at Target, I think. It's just a stainless steel stock pot - about 10 quarts. It's way bigger than we need it to be (look for something around 6 quarts if you decide to become a popcorn fanatic like me) but we REALLY like popcorn. I make regular stove top popcorn with just canola oil and a lot of salt (cover the bottom of the pot with oil, add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of popcorn kernels, pop over medium/medium-high heat, dump into a large serving bowl and douse generously with table salt). But for a better treat, try this:

Kettle Corn
Print recipe only here

INGREDIENTS
* 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/4 cup canola oil
* 1 t salt

METHOD
Have ready a serving bowl and two oven mitts or potholders. Add the sugar, salt and oil to a large pot (mine is a stainless steel stockpot that is used only for popping corn) and place over medium heat. When the sugar is dissolved (after 2 minutes or so) add the popcorn. When the popcorn begins to pop, begin to shake the pot without stopping until the popping slows (this prevents the sugar from burning). Once the popping has slowed remove from the heat and transfer kettle corn into serving bowl. Enjoy!

9 comments:

kate j said...

this recipe look so easy! do you think it will work with a Whirly-Pop (the only device from which my husband will eat popcorn)?

Katie Fairbank said...

With kettle corn you'll benefit from having a heavier bottom so you can control the temperature more easily and not scorch the sugar.

kjh said...

I had no idea it was so easy! I am a HUGE kettle corn fanatic! I always looked to bluegrass for teh real thing - this year I got it at the Norwood Rodeo too! And now there is a guy from Olathe at the farmers market every friday, right next to the James Ranch beef guy making fresh all afternoon! I have been known to down an entire bag for lunch, then have to go back and buy a bag for Christian! Anyway, I will try this at home! Thanks for th inspiration!

eric said...

I make kettle corn at festivals. The trick I’ve noticed is to get the sugar and oil to melt completely before it pops. You want to get it to a point where you’ve almost browned the sugar, and not just have it melt and stick to the popcorn. It’s tricky, because the sugar just loves to burn and stick to your pan.

Velma's "Wicked Delicious" Kettle Corn popcorn

Katie Fairbank said...

Eric - thanks for your $0.02! I amended the METHOD to allow for the sugar to dissolve, which you're right, is critical.

Kristine - you'll have fun making your own, just allow yourself a few batches to get the technique down. I burned several batches before getting the hang of the temp and shaking. But now I have a very well-seasoned pot.

kjh said...

Do you think my new Le Crueset Dutch oven would be a good choice for the pot? I actually made pulled pork in it the other night (which my sister said would be a mess to clean up) and it was a breeze!

Katie Fairbank said...

no - i think it'll be too hard to control the temp. the cast iron retains heat so well that if your sugar starts to burn there will be no way to stop it (i don't know what it'll do to the enamel but I wouldn't try it on my own LC). aluminum would be at the opposite end of the spectrum - it'll get hot very quickly, but be easier to cool. I would go with steel.

I'm curious about your pulled pork! I've been doing one on the grill, smoked with hickory, and finished in the oven. and I have a favorite new BBQ sauce: Sweet Baby Ray's. I'll send you some if you can't find it out there.

kjh said...

So, I'd swear the inside of my pot is not enamel check it out on-line - the new color is satin black. It is beautiful, but the inside seems teflon? Could it be?

Never have seen Sweet Baby Rays here. I used to use and love Silver PalatesBBQ sauce - cannot remmebr the name but it was both smoky and sweet. They don't sell it here anymore. I am now a fan of "Certified Organic Amazing Dad's BBQ Sauce. It appears to be from Canada. How's that for Local eating??? Anyway, the pulled pork is made in the dutch oven, slow cooked for 4 hours (350) wiht on epork shoulder, BBQ sauce of your choice mixed with apple juice and apple cider vinegar. I don't have proportions, I just kinds of dump and stir - maybe you can suggest some for your readers?

Katie Fairbank said...

enamel aside, I think cast iron isn't right for popcorn, especially introducing sugar to the equation. just too much heat in there.

when i do pulled pork i add the BBQ sauce at the end and just roast with a dry rub. try it sometime - i think roasting with the liquid in there is fine, but you'll get a drier and perhaps more authentic roast using a rub.