Homemade Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn_1 on Whisk Together

I had to skip yesterday’s post.  My deck needed staining, the church flag needed designing, subdivision needed managed, house needed cleaned, Freezer Meal workshops still underway, the kids needed … well… everything… and Monday and Tuesday are exercise days.  Apparently, one company was willing to come out to stain and sand my 12×24′ deck for a mere $2,952.00.  I think I went into the wrong business.  If I could make $3000 in a couple days, then even after taxes, insurance and such I’m still doing purty good!  My child was forced to watch TV for two hours while I finished painting, but hopefully her brain cells that didn’t quite make peak maturity were worth the $2852.00 I saved doing the job myself.  And their brains grow the most at age 3… so I have a few more months before she gets there, right?

Bruce Feiler, the author of “The Secrets of Happy Families” actually has a great interview done by AJ Jacobs on Amazon.  The conclusion of the interview reminded me a lot of an overall theme I found in positive psychology and pretty much everything else…. “TRY”.  Try to be happier, try to make your family better, try, try, try (Thanks Pink!) and you pretty much are already ahead of the game.  Funny how one little three letter word does a lot.

From the interview:

A.J.: You start off with Tolstoy’s famous maxim “All happy families are alike.” Do you agree?
Bruce: I didn’t at first, but now I do. Happy families have certain larger things in common: They adapt all the time. They talk. A lot. They go out and play. And they work at it. We try to improve at our jobs, our hobbies, even at being ourselves, yet somehow we forget to work on the one thing that most defines our well-being — our family. That’s my biggest takeaway. Want to have a happier family? Try.

Recipe Update:
I love kettle corn.  It is often at every major event from carnivals to conventions or if you live here near Bass Pro Shops you can get it every single day.  But seriously, it’s good stuff and actually freakishly easy to make at home.  I know some popcorn companies sell it in microwave popcorn bags, but after the government ordered them to stop lining their bags with certain chemicals I just stopped buying them altogether.  Plus, it actually reduces the efficacy of vaccines!  Who knew?  I was researching where I had read about the dangers of microwave popcorn and found that article.

If you want to do away with all microwave popcorn as I have, I highly encourage you buy the $8 Nordicware popcorn popping bowl.   Cheap, easy to use and easy to clean.  My friend Bryn told me about hers, and I’ve been in love with my bowl ever since.  You don’t need oil either!  Need another popcorn idea?  Try Caramel Popcorn.  Fall is almost here!

Kettle Corn
yields 8 servings

2 Tb. vegetable oil, canola oil, or I use grapeseed oil (and butter or bacon grapeseed oil for regular popcorn!)*
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar (you could use up to 1/3 cup)
salt

*Most recipes use about 1/4 cup oil but I have tried to reduce it as much as possible and 2 Tb. seems to work well

1.  Take a large skillet – about 12″ – and pour in the oil.  Heat over medium to medium-high heat.  Add 3 popcorn kernels to the skillet.  Have your lid handy.
2.  After about 10 minutes, you may hear some popping!  Woo hoo!  Add your popcorn kernels and sugar.  I stirred it around a bit with a spatula to keep the sugar from sticking in the very beginning.  Put the lid on top.  Shake the skillet back and forth to keep the sugar from burning.  Continue to cook and shake once in a while until the popcorn stops popping.  Not completely stops, but just like in the microwave – once the popcorn stops popping for 2-3 seconds in between.
3.  Take the skillet off of the burner.  Shake it around a little bit because you usually have a stray popcorn kernal go off.  Just for 5-10 seconds tops.  Not too long.  Pour the popcorn into a great big bowl and salt immediately.  I used regular salt.
4.  Enjoy!  Some of my popcorn was a little brown from the caramelization.  It was still good!

Kettle Corn on Whisk Together

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

I found this trick in one of my Alton Brown books.  It is how I make all my caramel popcorn and such, but never realized to put it on Whisk Together.  Since the FDA has asked the popcorn manufacturers to “voluntary” stop using chemicals that are potentially harmful in their popcorn bags, this was a nice alternative.  The counterargument is that the brown lunch bag being used is not food grade safe.  Although one does put their lunch in there…. it is in the microwave, so I will keep using this trick until I get an popcorn air popper instead.

Microwave Popcorn

yields 4 cups

1/4 cup of popcorn kernals (Orville Rederbacher worked the best – I tried the off-brands and they weren’t as fluffy)
1 brown paper lunch bag

1.  Take the kernels and put them in the brown lunch bag.  At this point, fold the top over twice.  If you are afraid of the popcorn popping out, staple each end making sure the staples are 2″ apart.  The staples will be okay and NOT catch fire.  I promise.  I have done this like 25 times.
2.  Or, you could fold the bag over and stand it on its end if that will fit.  That way the popcorn stays in the bag.
3.  Microwave for 2 minutes.  The pops will be 3-4 seconds apart once it is ready.  In my microwave, this is always 2 minutes.  I tried 2 minutes and 30 seconds once and ended up with burnt popcorn.

The original Alton Brown recipe suggested to add a tablespoon of brown sugar and “see what happens.”  Yeah…. nothing much happened.  I threw it away because it tasted bad.  Sorry, Alton.

Caramel Corn and Caramel Corn Snack Mix

I’ve made this for several years and really like the snack mix.  I didn’t have any rice chex or pretzels on hand and made the popcorn, too.  Still yummy!  Here is how to make your own batch of caramel corn.  Your house will smell wonderful.  This also makes a great base for future presents:  drizzle some melted chocolate and tie it up in a pretty bow, add some cinnamon or cardamom and create your own favorite gourmet popcorn, use popcorn and peanuts to combine and make your own Cracker Jack, etc.

**I would advise not using microwave popcorn.  1.  It is too salty usually for being used in this recipe.  2.  Those bags may or may not contain chemicals which have since been banned here.  But the companies have a few years to comply with the new law, so you don’t know if you are getting them or not.
** I would recommend Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn kernels.  I tried off-brands and they just didn’t seem to pop as well or as large.

**This gives a light coating of caramel.  If you like more coating on your popcorn and/or popcorn mix, then reduce the amount of popcorn or other add-ons.

Caramel Corn Snack Mix

8 cups popped popcorn (you can buy it, or cook it on the stovetop, or use an airpopper, or put 1/4 cup of kernels in a paper bag and nuke it for 2 min.)
4 cups oven toasted rice cereal squares (like Chex Mix)
2 cups miniature pretzel twists
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tb. molasses, optional
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 300°F.
2.  Combine popcorn, cereal, pretzels and pecans into a large roasting pan or other large baking vessel.  Mix it all up.
3.  Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and optional molasses into a saucepan. Cook and stir with spoon over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil over entire surface. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook without stirring 5 minutes. (Mixture should continue to bubble gently over surface). Remove saucepan from heat. Quickly stir in vanilla and baking soda, stirring carefully. It will bubble violently and that is okay.
4.  Pour caramel over popcorn mixture in, stirring until well coated.  Put this mixture into a roasting pan or large cooking vessel.  My turkey roasting pan works the best for me.
5.  Bake 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Transfer popcorn mixture to large piece of parchment or silicone mats. Cool completely, breaking mixture into clusters as it cools.

Recipe adapted from Pampered Chef

Caramel Corn

15 cups popped popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tb. molasses, optional
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 300°F.
2.  Pour popcorn into large bowl.
3.  Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and optional molasses into a saucepan. Cook and stir with spoon over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil over entire surface. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook without stirring 5 minutes. (Mixture should continue to bubble gently over surface). Remove saucepan from heat. Quickly stir in vanilla and baking soda, stirring carefully. It will bubble violently and that is okay.
4.  Pour caramel over popcorn mixture in, stirring until well coated.  Put this mixture into a roasting pan or large cooking vessel.  My turkey roasting pan works the best for me.
5.  Bake 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Transfer popcorn mixture to large piece of parchment or silicone mats. Cool completely, breaking mixture into clusters as it cools.

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