Saturday, October 20, 2007

Homemade Kettle Corn

You know that irresistible, hot and crispy kettle corn from the local fair? I've always loved the fresh stuff, but hated those nasty, chemical-filled microwave popcorn substitutes. Well, now you can make it yourself, on your own range, with nothing more elaborate than a regular large pot (+lid) and a small piece of aluminum foil.

To get this right (i.e. no burning of sugar), you MUST first test the head capacity of your range and pot. Once you get this down, you can cook up a batch of fresh kettle corn in less than 2 minutes. I'll guide you through the process below...



Makes about 2 cups
3 minutes
-large pot with lid
-small piece of Al foil
Quick and simple

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp. corn oil
1/8th c. loose yellow popcorn kernels (they are so cheap!!). White popcorn kernels will also work, but I prefer the bigger yellow puffs.
1/8th c. white sugar
fine salt

DIRECTIONS
Kettle corn (once you've got the timing down-- see below if this is your first attempt):
1. Pick out a nice big pot with a lid. Rinse it briefly with water, then pour out the water, leaving a few droplets on the inside. Place the pot on the range and collect the pot lid and a small piece of aluminum foil. (The aluminum will go between the pot and the lid so you won't have to scrub oil and sugar droplets off of the lid when you're done-- easy easy cleanup).

2. Measure out the corn oil, a portion of popcorn and the white sugar. Place right near the stove, where you can get to it quickly. You must beable to get to these ingredients fast. Also turn on the fan above the range, just in case.
3. When everything is in place, begin heating the pot over medium-high heat (I use level '7' on my crappy electric range). Watch the pan closely... you need to know when all the water has boiled off.
4. As soon as the pot is completely dry -- make certain of this, you don't want to add oil to hot water-- pour in the oil, swirling slightly. Start timing... wait exactly 30 seconds, then add in the popcorn. Keep timing-- watch your clock-- you should know how long it takes for the kernels to start popping (say the time is 'X' seconds)! Don't cover the pot, but still shake to mix the corn. When X number of seconds pass (should be just before the popcorn really starts to pop!), quickly pour in the sugar and cover the pot with the foil and then lid. Shake vigorously.
5. It will take a little longer for pops to continue, since the addition of sugar will bring the temperature down some. Once the popcorn pops rapidly, turn off the range, but leave the pot on the hot burner. When the pops are parted by more than 2 seconds, remove the pot from the burner and place on a range (or other metal surface). This conducts heat out of the pot, to keep the sugar from burning.

6. Pour the kettle corn out into a metal bowl-- careful, the melted sugar is hot. Hopefully the worst is you have a little bit of 'caramel corn' on the bottom and no singed pieces. Sprinkle with salt, to taste. Enjoy your fresh, warm, sweet-and-salty kettle corn.
Kids will love you. So will engineers at late-night homework sessions.

To first test your pot/range system (only needs to be done once)-
Okay, in order to not burn the sugar, you need to figure out hot long it takes for your popcorn to start popping using a certain pot. Once you get the times down, make sure to keep using that same pot and start at the same temperature.
1. Pick out a nice big pot with a lid. Rinse it briefly with water, then pour out the water, leaving a few droplets on the inside. Place the pot on the range and collect the pot lid and a small piece of aluminum foil. (The aluminum will go between the pot and the lid so you won't have to scrub oil and sugar droplets off of the lid when you're done-- easy easy cleanup). Also make sure you have access to a clock with a seconds hand.
2. Measure out some oil and a portion of popcorn. Place right near the stove, where you can get to it quickly.
3. When everything is in place, begin heating the pot over medium-high heat (I use level '7' on my crappy electric range). Watch the pan closely... you should see those leftover water droplets first fan out, form bubbles and start evaporating. Right before all the droplets boil away, you should see them start to dance in the pot (you've hit the Leidenfrost point! ~220 C). Doing it this way guarantees you'll have the same temperature each time you start a batch.
4. As soon as the pot is completely dry -- make certain of this, you don't want to add oil to hot water-- pour in the oil, swirling slightly. Start timing... wait exactly 30 seconds, then add in the popcorn. Keep timing! Cover the pot first with the foil, the the lid; shake the pop vigorously to mix the kernels. Note how many seconds it takes for you to hear the first small *pop* inside your pot. Remember this number, it will vary slightly from range to range and pot to pot-- for me it was around 30 seconds.
5. Go ahead a pop up the rest of this regular popcorn. Make sure to remove from the heat once the pops are parted by more than 2 seconds.

2 comments:

Sea said...

This sounds great! I haven't made popcorn on the stove in ages- I think it's time to try again.

-sea :)
www.bookofyum.com

a.c.e. said...

Sea-
I'm SO HAPPY corn is GF. I'd be lost without corn and potatoes.

It took me awhile to figure out how to make this without ending up with an apartment that smelled like burnt sugar.

btw.. The produce here in CA is amazing.

Ashley