I have a confession to make – I love popcorn.
So I make my own. Beloved hates the smell of microwave popcorn and the stuff just isn’t good for you, on top of being rather expensive. And popping your own isn’t hard at all.
I like Orville Redenbacher; it just seems to pop up bigger and fluffier, much more so than any other brand I’ve tried, including “gourmet” popcorns. I’ve also started popping it in clarified butter as opposed to vegetable oil. Clarified butter is butter that’s been melted and had all of the water and milk solids removed so it has a much higher smoking point, although not as high as vegetable oils, so you do have to be careful when using it. I clarify my own, but you can usually find it in the “foreign” food section of the grocery store, where it’s labeled “ghee.” It’s a bit on the expensive side, so if you can you should clarify your own. It lasts a very long time – longer than regular butter – and while I’ve read that you can store it at room temperature just like vegetable oil, I keep mine refrigerated just to be on the safe side. It gives the popcorn a wonderful flavor and bonus! You don’t really need to butter it afterwards.
I’ve been making popcorn on the stove for many, many years, so I’ve got a couple of tips for you:
- Don’t use a popcorn popper – too much steam accumulates inside, and that makes for soggy popcorn. Even the types with ventilation holes traps too much steam. Make it on the stove.
- If you’re going to butter it, use REAL butter. Not margarine, and especially not “diet” margarine, which contains a lot of water. Water is the kiss of death to popcorn.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can throw in ¼ cup of sugar when the popcorn starts popping and make Kettle Corn, but you must be diligent in shaking the pan to ensure that the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
The amounts given here will make 2 quarts of popcorn, but if you want to make more, use a large, heavy bottomed stockpot and make sure there’s enough clarified butter or oil to cover the bottom of the pan, then add just enough popcorn to cover the bottom in a thin, single layer.
makes 2 quarts
3 tablespoons clarified butter or vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
a teaspoon or so of salt
1/4 cup sugar, optional (for Kettle Corn)
2 tablespoons melted, but slightly cooled, butter, optional (adding hot butter to hot popcorn will wilt it)
Heat the clarified butter or vegetable oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 or 4 popcorn kernels and cover the pan.
When the kernels pop, add the 1/3 cup of kernels in an even layer, then add the salt. Give it a good shake to coat the popcorn kernels in the butter/oil and to distribute the salt. Cover the pan again, but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape. (I’ve read instructions that say you should remove the pan from the heat for 30 seconds – this supposedly brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are returned to the stove they all pop at about the same time, but I’ve never noticed any difference. It’s your call.)
When the popcorn begins popping pretty constantly, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner keeping the lid slightly ajar, if at all possible, to let the steam from the popcorn escape. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, immediately remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn into a wide bowl. Drizzle with the melted, but slightly cooled butter if desired (but it won’t need a lot if you popped it in the clarified butter).