“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”
Popcorn is an old fashioned comfort food. There is something about the smell, taste and sound of popcorn popping that evokes a warm sense of comfort and love. Popcorn is a friend, it never travels alone, it is an “and” food. Popcorn and a movie. Popcorn and a coke. Popcorn and butter. Popcorn and a huge piece of chocolate that you won’t share with anyone.
When microwave popcorn hit the shelves in the 1980’s something changed. What was once a special lovingly prepared stove top snack became a 2 to 3 minute meal….with a certain coating left in your mouth that you could never quite identify as natural. The taste of microwave popcorn has come a long way in 20 years. Some brands are actually very tasty and there is something to be said for it’s expedience, but nothing beats the old fashioned way Paula has been making popcorn for years. In South Carolina, they call it “skillet fried”. Here in Georgia, we just call it friend!
Stove Top Popcorn
Yields: 2 quarts
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels, high quality
2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste
Place oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Put 2 kernels of popcorn in the oil and cover with a tight fitting lid. When “test kernels” pop, the oil is at the perfect temperature (between 400º-460º F) and it is time to add the remaining popcorn kernels in an even layer.
Replace lid and remove from the heat for 30 seconds. By removing the pan from the heat and waiting 30 seconds, you are allowing the kernels to reach a near popping temperature so when returned to the heat they will all pop at about the same time.
Return the pan to the heat and begin gently shaking the pan back and forth over the heat. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to allow the steam from the popcorn to release. Once the popping slows down to few seconds between pops it is time to remove the pan from the heat and carefully dump the popcorn into a large bowl.
If you are adding butter. Place the butter in the empty hot pan off the burner and allow butter to melt. Pour over your popcorn and salt to taste.
Why does popcorn pop?
The secret: water.
Each popcorn kernel contains a hard outer shell and a starchy inside surrounding a dab of water. When the kernels are heated to about 400º-460º F, the pocket of water turns into steam and expands within the tough casing. Just like blowing up a balloon, as more and more steam forms, the pressure against the outer shell increases. Eventually, this hard shell can no longer contain the pressure and the shell gives way causing the kernel to explode. That’s when you hear the POP! When it pops, the kernel turns inside out revealing the soft starch that makes the white fluffy part of your popcorn.
Kernels that don’t pop are known as “old maids”. They have lost some of the moisture needed within the starch to create the build up of pressure to pop the kernel.
Rejuvenate popcorn by filling a 1 quart jar ¾ full with popcorn kernels. Add one tablespoon of water. Cover and shake every 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In three to four days it should be ready for popping!