Monday, May 17, 2010

Make It From Scratch: Popcorn

I know, it's kind of random. ]
But I am really tired right now and don't feel like thinking very much.
This weekend was really busy.
I think my kids are getting sick and I am anticipating a long night.
Today was grey and cold. Not beautiful spring weather at all.
We needed a treat in the afternoon.
We made popcorn.
And really, this is the very best popcorn in the known universe, so I am obligated to tell you about it.

Here's the deal. I am serious about popcorn. Once a year, when I actually go to the movies, I bring my own bag of popcorn. Same goes for Disneyland. We bring our own. My old neighbor used to beg for it. If I wanted to make her supremely happy, all I had to do was deliver a bag of popcorn. I won't touch microwave stuff. I make my own.
From the time that I was allowed to be near a stove and hot oil, I made huge bowls of it.
Often my lunch consisted of a big bowl of popcorn and a book.
Incidentally, that is one of life's most wonderful combinations.

After a time, my mom got tired of me oiling up her pots and I was given one particular pot to use. It was avocado green and heavy. It was Club brand, cast aluminium.
I have since discovered that vintage Club cookware has a bit of a cult following and now I want to get a whole set. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than Les Cruset! I even found the exact pot I used to use on Ebay. Here is the tiny picture of it.

And here is the link if you actually care to see it bigger.
This brings back many memories for me. It's more than a pot. Really.

It was the popcorn pot. With every use it became perfectly seasoned. So much so that it did not get washed. I simply waited for it to cool and then used a damp towel to wash it out. I wanted that oily patina.

When I got married, my mom gave me the pot as a wedding gift. I am sure she was glad to get rid of it. It was pretty gross. But it made perfect popcorn.
Aaron hated it too.
So when we moved from Fallbrook to Long Beach, the pot got trashed.
I have yet to find its replacement.
This means I may be hitting Ebay soon. (I even found a turquoise one. Turquoise! Are you kidding me right now?)

Beyond the pot, there are a few other secrets to making the perfect bowl of popcorn. Allow me to enlighten you.

First, you must use white popcorn. It will say that on the bag. WHITE.
It makes all the difference in the world. White popcorn is tender and has a more delicate popcorn flavor than the more common yellow popcorn.
It is also rather difficult to find. I have found 1 store in the greater Long Beach area that carries it. I have looked in 7.
If you have a Stater Brothers in your area, they sell white popcorn.
Major Market, in Fallbrook, sells it too.
That is it.
So when you find it, you buy a few bags. It's worth it.

Secondly, you must use kosher salt. Regular old salt won't do. The kosher salt has a real flavor and it is simply perfect on the popcorn.
I can't eat it with regular salt now.

So once you've got your essential ingredients, here is what you do:

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy bottomed pan with olive oil (or another light, vegetable oil)
Pour in enough white popcorn to cover the pan in a single layer.
Cover pan with tight fitting lid.
Turn on heat to high.
Shake the pan occasionally from side to side as the oil heats up.
When the first kernels begin to pop, you can stop shaking.
Important: do not leave the pan.
As soon as the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from heat and carefully pour popcorn in a large bowl.
There will still be popcorn popping, so be on guard for hot, flying kernels.
It is very important to remove the popcorn while it is still popping slowly because at that point it burns quickly. And even a few burned kernels will spoil the whole batch.

You will probably have to practice with the timing a bit. Just don't wait for it to stop popping. It's too late then.

Sprinkle the popcorn with kosher salt to taste.
Then, gather round the big bowl and enjoy the taste of popcorn perfection.

You do not need to add butter, Parmesan cheese or any other thing to this popcorn. It tastes delicious with just salt.
But, if you do add butter, you will think you died and went to popcorn heaven.
It is good, friends.

And if you can't imagine going through all this trouble when you can just put a bag in the microwave, let me assure you, there is no comparison.
Microwave popcorn is laden with chemicals and bright yellow dye.
This may come as a shock to you, but, it is not real food.

So try it the old fashioned way. Just once. I'm telling you, you won't be sorry.
Happy popping.

I'll be back with full Star Wars birthday party tutorials tomorrow. At least I hope so.


Betsi* said...

Oh my goodness, Greta! That is THE exact dutch oven pot my mom uses exclusively for making popcorn! She still makes it from scratch several times a week. I agree that the avocado green club pot is the only way to go when making your own!
I can't quite produce the same results in my own dutch oven pot. I think it's the seasoning of nearly forty years of popcorn making and I know for a fact that the avocado color adds to the flavor as well!

The Melvin Fam said...

We made popcorn tonight and I thought of you and this're SO right - nothing like REAL popcorn! It's the BEST!!!