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Have you ever had that sensation? You go out to a circus, fair or amusement park, and suddenly there is this delicious scent; warm, buttery, sweet and accompanied by what seems the scent of freshly baked bread. And suddenly, you have the craving. Yes, I am talking about popcorn. That wonderful snack-king of the easy baking family. Most of us love nothing more than to have a large bag when we go to the cinema or sit down with the family on the couch on a Friday evening to watch a nice movie. Yes, popcorn is by far the number one when it comes to snacks enjoyed during good times.
But where does it come from, who created that lovely treat we often take for granted today?
Would it surprise you to learn that it was the Native Americans who gave us this delight? Indeed, thousands of years ago, the earliest evidence having been found has been dating around 3600 BC, corn was being popped - making it the oldest form of consumed corn.
The western world learned about popcorn from the Native Americans when in the 16th and 17th century the British travelled to America. From there on, popcorn was unstoppable. For instance, during the Great Depression, corn was one of the few food supplies which were available at a fairly reasonable price, thus turning it into a popular food group! It also caused the corn industry to flourish in a time when other businesses died out.
But the Great Depression wasn't the only time when popcorn came out victorious; in the Second World War, rations were at an all-time low. Not merely on luxury items such as sugar, but in general. Due to the recession Americans would eat three times more popcorn than they had ever done before.
To this day, there are no less than six states in the Unites States of America who all claim to be the popcorn state of the USA. Personally, I don't care about states - as long as I can have my portion of this easy baking snack when I decide to call it a family film night!
- 3 Tbsp of canola peanut or grapeseed oil (high smoke point oil) - 1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels - 1 3-quart covered saucepan - 2 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter - Salt to taste
1) Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat.
2) Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.
3) When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from the heat source and count 30 seconds. (Count out loud; it's fun to do with kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.
4) Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest and gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.
With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop (I counted 4 unpopped kernels in my last batch), and nothing burns.
If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan.
Salt to taste.
If you add salt to the oil in the pan before popping, when the popcorn pops, the salt will be well distributed throughout the popcorn.
Fun toppings for the popcorn - Spanish smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, cayenne powder, chili pepper, curry powder, cumin, grated Parmesan cheese.
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