Friday, January 30, 2009

One of Life's Simple Pleasure: Popcorn

Popcorn is a light, delicious and healthier snack. At our house, it's one of our absolute favorites. Since we don't own a microwave, we make it right on the stove. Making popcorn at home on the stovetop sometimes proves to be a challenge. You may find that the popcorn comes out chewy or that a lot of the kernels don't pop and it may seem much better to just go on ahead and microwave a bag. There are a few good reasons why you might want to give popping popcorn on the stovetop another try.
  1. Microwave popcorn if far more expensive than just the regular popping kernels. Next time you go shopping, take a look. You can buy more plain old popping kernels for less money. A lot more.
  2. You can't control what is in microwave popcorn: salt, flavorings, and all other kinds of additions. Even the microwave bag is suspect.
  3. It is really easy to pop corn on your stove top and after you follow these instructions, you'll wonder what the big deal was anyway.
You'll need
1 part oil
2 parts popping corn
So for example, a 1/4 cup oil (4 tablespoons) for a 1/2 cup popping corn
A 3-4 quart heavy bottomed pot and lid (make sure it is a *heavy bottomed pot* or else the popcorn will burn)
Your favorite popcorn bowl

Pour the oil into the bottom of the pot and then put in the popping corn. Pick up the pot and move it around so that the kernels form a single layer on the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on and turn the heat up to high. Don't do a thing. Just let the popcorn start popping. In about a minute or so, the popping will become violent. Let it do it's thing. Once the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat and take off the lid. Transfer the popcorn to your favorite popcorn bowl. Sprinkle with salt or nutritional yeast or eat plain (the hubby loves it plain).

If you follow this method, you will get perfectly popped popcorn. Light, airy. No burned or un-popped kernels.
Now, if you just like the idea of the convenience of the microwave, I saw on television once (I think it was Alton Brown's show) how you can make microwave popcorn at home. So I searched and found a tutorial for making your own microwave popcorn. It's also a more cost-effective way to enjoy popcorn and just a quick survey of the reviews says it works like a charm. All you need is a brown paper bag and a stapler, your popcorn kernels, oil and flavorings and you're good to go.

Fat, to me, is not a bad thing and is actually necessary in the diet. If you're concerned about the oil, use a good quality oil like high-heat safflower or grapeseed oil. Now the alternative to popping with oil is air popping. I personally find air-popped popcorn to be a little tasteless and bland although it does have much less fat. For devoted air-poppers, though, the challenge is getting the flavor to stick to the popcorn and be distibuted evenly. I was talking with my friend who has an air-popper and she spoke of making a flavor mist for it. I couldn't think of how I'd do it exactly but it's a good idea. Here's a guide for air-popping then spraying with hot sauce. Interesting!

A 1/2 cup dry popcorn kernels yields enough popcorn for my family of four (okay 3 real eaters as Z2 doesn't really get down) with some left over. I've experimented with adding sugar (not so good), kelp powder (not bad), Earth Balance in place of oil (extra-buttery taste), and nutritional yeast (nice and cheesy tasting if you don't add too much). You could do chili powder, black or cayenne pepper, or if grated soy or dairy cheese. There's really no limit.

Popcorn is just one of those simple pleasures in life that everyone can enjoy on the cheap.

Picture 1: "Perfect Popcorn" by tschorda on Flickr
Picture 2: "Love that Popcorn" by Banion1964 on Flickr


Anonymous said...

Yes, homemade popcorn is the best. My Dad taught me when I was a kid and to this day my family loves when I break out the stove-top corn. Only thing I do different is pop mine in butter and then add some more on top. A cheap pleasure.

Anonymous said...

We make it on the stove too! We have not made popcorn it a while. We usually add seasonings and spirulina.

Cocoanib said...

How ironic!
My husband and I get on popcorn kicks and this week we've been on a big one...popping almost every night.
We do stove top because it tastes better and I don't trust the chemicals in mic popcorn.

Some fav combos are coconut oil, garlic powder, allspice.
-evoo, nutritional yeast, garlic powder

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

LoL . . . it's so cool that I'm not the only stove-top popcorn fan!

Cocoanib . . . I've got to try allspice! Raet, I never even thought of spirulina . . . I wonder if the Picky One (Z1) would go for that? :)

Just Me said...

I love popcorn...i have to admit I am lazy and opt for microwave far too often. I have been on the lookout for an airpopper at the thrift store though or one of the ones you use in the microwave.

Serenity Love Divine Earth said...

What I find hilarious is that folks, especially children, think that the microwave is the only way to prepare popcorn. We have come very far in a very short time. Has it been worth it?

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

I wonder the same thing too . . has it been? We've forgotten so much.

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