Given that I have a blog devoted to films, I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that I love popcorn. In particular, I love the kind you get at the movie theatre, even when it’s not coated in a thick, greasy layer of liquid butter. Of course, I would also eat microwave popcorn from time to time, but it always felt a little off to me. Maybe it was my body picking up on the safety concerns involving the carcinogenic perfluorooctanoic acid that might be leeching into the oil from the popcorn bag or the bronchiolitis-obliterans-causing diacetyl frequently used to add butter flavour. Chances are, though, it’s just because I dislike using the microwave when I can use other cooking methods instead.
Despite all this, I hadn’t tried making stove-top popcorn on my own before. Well, I guess I had done Jiffy Pop before, a product I mentally equate with childhood. At any rate, the process seemed so much more involved than sticking a paper bag in the microwave for a few minutes. As sad as it may be, we do live in a time of great convenience and even greater laziness.
Still, after have a brief twitter conversation about stove-top popcorn with Sindri of Sin Fang fame, and then being prompted by Emily to just buy a two pound bag of kernels already, I finally tried my hand at doing it all from scratch. And you know what? It really isn’t that much more involved than the microwave method and the results are so, so much better.
Stove-top popcorn (slightly adapted from Simply Recipes)
3 Tbsp canola oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
Salt to taste
1. Place a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil and let it warm up a little. Then add 3 or 4 kernels to the pan and cover.
2. After the kernels pop, add the rest and shake a little to ensure a nice, even layer. Replace the cover and remove the pan from the heat for 30 seconds.
3. Return the pan to the heat. Once the popping really starts, move the lid so there is a little crack for steam to escape through and begin gently shaking the pan over the flame.
4. When popping slows to individual pops with several seconds in between, remove the pan from the heat and dump the kernels in a big bowl. You can wait a few seconds before dumping if you want, as there are usually one or two kernels that decide to pop last minute. Salt to taste.
Note: This makes quite a lot of popcorn. If you make it and it seems like a bit too much, try 1/4 cup of kernels and 2 1/3 tbsp oil.
We started our stove-top popcorn escapades with Bucky Badger brand yellow popcorn, and then went on to get some baby rice popcorn and calico popcorn from Krinke’s Market at the local farmer’s market. The baby rice is supposedly “hull-less” or, in other words, has very small and delicate hulls that are much less noticeable. The calico is a mix of different colours and types. Ultimately, though, Emily and I both agree that the big old yellow popcorn from Bucky Badger was the best, and we’ve pretty much been addicted to it ever since.
We’ve also been using a little of this Popping Topping Butter Salt stuff to salt it. It’s flavoured with actual butter, too, so none of that diacetyl stuff!
And because I’m me: Curried popcorn
I’m currently developing an idea for a curry-flavoured popcorn topping… Is anyone surprised? Anyone?
Anyway, for my first experiment, I tried popping a 1/4 cup batch of kernels and then immediately tossing them in about 2 teaspoons of garam masala and a hefty pinch of salt until they were evenly coated The resulting kernels were covered in little dark brown spots and had a hot and toasty flavour with a subtly earthiness that actually worked surprisingly well.
Now I wonder what introducing some heat to the spice beforehand might do in further developing the flavours. I have seen recipes online that do this by cooking the spices in hot butter that is then drizzled over the popcorn. However, as melted butter has a tendency to convert popcorn from an arguably health-conscious snack choice to an unhealthy one rather quickly, I’m not sure I want to take the route. Although if I do try it, I may want to go really fancy and use melted Ghee instead of butter to further promote the Indian cuisine flavours.
I’ve also seen one recipe that advocates adding a lot of curry powder to the oil, which would certainly work, but would also require that I use a lot more of the spices than needed for other methods, as much of the spice will end up coating the walls of the pan instead. Otherwise, I’m thinking I may work on my own spice blend that I can grind up fresh and toast in a dry skillet just before use.
Whatever the result, it just goes to show how much fun stove-top popcorn can be. Go and make some, and start experimenting with those toppings! I’d love to hear what people come up with, and I’ll let you know what kind of results I get.