Kettle Corn & Popcorn from the Bat Cave

Noticed I was a bit absent? No??  I will pretend that you did.  I was busy spending quality time with my twin sister who was visiting from DC.  We ate local, drank local, and spent time talking about food and our futures.  One day in particular, she made us a big batch of kettle corn and we plopped ourselves on the couch to watch tv (The Big Bang Theory, love that show!), and chatted some more.

If you are in need of a movie snack, a bowl of comfort, or just craving a munchie, I highly recommend you make some kettle corn.  It will solve those crunchy, sweet, and salty cravings.

We have sweet childhood memories of kettle corn but the history of this snack is somewhat vague and nobody can quite pin down the exact origin.  Legend has it that kettle corn first came about on the American farms when some un-named hero of mine melted pork fat and added sweetener and dried corn and cooked the lot up in a cast-iron kettle.  By Golly! We have tasty goodness!

Interestingly enough, popcorn is a cereal grain that originates from a wild grass. Its scientific name is zea mays everta, and it is the only type of corn to actually pop.

The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in archaeological sites in Peru dating back as far as 4700 B.C. Evidence indicates that in many areas, corn arrived before pots did and that early experimentation with corn as a food was not dependent on the presence of pottery.

Popcorn in North America seems to be first noted at the “Bat Cave,” a complex of rock shelters of west central New Mexico. The first excavation was in 1948 by Harvard grad students, anthropologist Herbert Dick and botanist Earle Smith. The popcorn kernels have been carbon dated to be about 3,000 years old.

It strikes me that some people have never made popcorn using the stove-top technique.  If your experience with popcorn is limited to pressing start and opening a bag, then you will be blown away by how easy and how tasty popcorn on the stove is.

Kettle Corn

  • 1/2c popcorn kernels (2T unpopped = approx. 1qt popped)
  • 1/3c sugar (white, brown, etc. you can even try honey and molasses)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4c oil (peanut, canola, veg, coconut, hazelnut, etc.)

You will need a large pot with a lid. I like to pre-measure the sugar, salt, and popcorn into one bowl to make it easier to add to the hot oil.

With the lid on, heat the oil and one kernel in the pot, shaking often. When you hear the kernel pop, add the rest of the popcorn/sugar. Using hot pads or a towel, hold the lid onto the pot as you shake and shimmy the pot over the burner. The  popcorn will begin to pop like crazy. Continue to heat and shake until the popping sound begins to slow. Quickly turn out the warm popcorn into a large bowl.

Movement is very important when heating the popcorn to keep the sugars from burning. It is much easier to make this on a gas range or glass top stove as opposed to one with electric coil burners.

Once you master the technique you can personalize the flavors to your liking.  Before I lost my taste buds and all love for spicy food I would be pushing the cayenne here, but now, I am tempted to add some cinnamon to the mix.

Recently I made a spectacular batch by using half hazelnut oil (good for med-high heat) and half canola oil. I used a bit of brown sugar to add deeper flavor and tossed in some coconut and dried cranberries while the popcorn was still hot.  Sinful, I tell you!