I want to share with you a recipe that I've used more than any other recipe...my recipe for popcorn. Now this may seem a little whacko...after all, who needs a recipe for PoPcOrN?!? But with the advent of microwave popcorn, its amazing how so many folks no longer do it the old fashioned way on the stove and many just don't know how to do it anymore...or at least in a way that tastes better than microwave.
My love affair with popcorn began over 3 decades ago. I can't remember my first handful of popcorn, but I do remember where and when I learned to pop the delightful food. We were living in Crystal Springs in our big, white farmhouse. We lived there from the time I was 8 til I was 11 and a half. During those years, my mom taught me to pop it in an old, battered, metal pot. I still remember that old pot...now I wish I had it. It wasn't big enough to hold as much as my family now eats, but I'd love to have it just for the sake of having it. Somehow I could figure out a way to honor that old pot and the popcorn loving journey it set me upon. I know, I know...you're wondering how I can get so nostalgic about an old pot. But that old pot symbolizes not only all the downright delectable popcorn I've popped over the years (plus more than a few burnt kernels in the early years) but all the friends and family I've shared big bowls of the fluffy stuff with over the years.
In high school, I tried to watch my calories and so for a few years I tried to make due with the air-popper stuff experimenting with all sorts of topping to make it more palatable.
During the college years, my girlfriends and I would pop it up in one of those orange Hamilton Beach poppers complete with the built-in butter melting compartment. Microwave popcorn and airpoppers were also the rage and if my memory is not playing tricks on me, I think that the popping of popcorn was the cause of more than one dorm fire alarm going off!!!
After college, I left for Africa. There were no fancy poppers and the only microwave popcorn to cross my tastebuds arrived occasionally via a package from back home. That is where I really started dev'ping the ART of corn popping. Using a copper pot with vents in the lid, I started fine tuning my popping skills. Life moved more slowly over there. I lived alone. I had plenty of time in the evenings to read good books in front of the fireplace and popcorn was the ideal culinary companion. Since I did live alone, I also got lonely...a lot. Good food, running water, and electricity were good bait for reeling in overnight houseguests. Denise B. was one of my frequent sleepover pals and she not only liked my popcorn freshly made, she liked eating it leftover and stale the next morning!
When I left Africa behind, I unfortunately left my pot behind. Though I must say, the poppers with the built-in stirring contraption pop up some pretty fine popcorn. I've presently got one in candy-apple red that my sweetheart husband gave me for Christmas last year. Unfortunately, I don't think it was designed for industrial strength use and the plastic window on top broke after a few months use. The lid is now "attractively" patched with aluminum foil. But I continue to use it and every Sunday night, the kids and I devour mountains of the crunchy stuff while watching our weekly family movie.
Over the last couple of years, our family has been making some major dietary changes. We've been trying to get wiser with our food choices and that's meant I've had to rethink how I've made even my adored popcorn. This is reflected in the recipe.
At this point, I must give some credit to my friend Kelly L (who, by the way, was my first "Queen of the Week"). She was the one who really raved on and on about my popcorn and how it was significantly better than the average Joe Popcorn. She'd come over to help me clean for a party or get ready for a new baby coming, and we'd inevitabley end up at the dining room table talking and laughing (often HOWLING when Kelly was doing the storytelling) while we ate copious amounts of the white fluffy treat. After she moved to Colorado, we both frequented the Five in a Row homeschool board and one way or the other, my popcorn came up as a topic of discussion. Before I knew it, people were asking for the recipe. I'd been making popcorn for so long, I really didn't have a recipe. I just did it. But having people ask me HOW I did it got the old gray matter humming and I finally came up with something that other people could reproduce. And now, "Elysa Mac's World Famous PoPcOrN" is a topic that is frequently mentioned on the boards and a recipe that is almost as frequently requested.
I love sharing things that I love with others, so I'd love to share my recipe with you!
ELYSA MAC'S WORLD FAMOUS PoPcOrN!!!
- Basic Recipe: Cover bottom of pan with oil. Then add enough popcorn to cover pan bottom. Cook over high heat til popping stops or there are a few seconds between each pop. Don't keep it in there too long and let it burn. If you're someone who needs specific amounts, you can start out with 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/3 cup of kernels.
- I keep my bag of unpopped popcorn in the freezer
- Use a pot with a good lid but preferably one with vents so the steam can escape---trapped steam can make your popcorn TOUGH
- I have personally found that generic popcorn pops just as well as the fancy stuff
- Heat your oil FIRST---put it on high and after a minute or so, add your popcorn.
Some bags say to add a few kernels and when those pop add the rest, I just "know" how long to wait cause I've done it for so long.
- After you put in your popcorn, sprinkle it with the orange buttery popcorn salt that is used in the popcorn machines at football games, etc. The only place I can find it is Sam's Club. One brand is SAVORAL (or something like that). Right now I've got a different brand, I think ACT II. THIS is the REAL secret!
- Pop your corn on HIGH shaking it (side to side ON the burner, not up and down taking it OFF of the burner) and dumping some of it when it gets to the top but continue cooking it over heat til almost all of them are popped.
- Since I'm trying to be healthier and use "good fats" now, I use Expeller Pressed SAFFLOWER oil to pop the corn. You can use a vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, just be aware that unless its an expeller pressed type of oil, its not as healthy for you. But if you don't eat it very often, then it might not be a big deal for you. I eat a LOT of popcorn so I really try to use the good stuff.
- Now, also, if you're not worrying about only using "good fats", I spray my popcorn with butter flavored spray. The one I like the very best and in my opinion tastes the MOST like butter is the Kroger brand. I like it much better than Pam. But SALT FIRST! If you spray then salt you get too much salt on those sprayed pieces. I know, it sounds like a little thing, but it all works to make it taste DELISH!
- Use regular salt (well, I use sea salt) not the orange salt afterwards. I add a bit of salt after adding each layer of popcorn.
- Sometimes I melt some butter and pour over the popcorn after popping. Real BUTTER is a "good fat" where as the stuff in the spray cans is not. But even if its a "good fat", I don't need to be eating it by the tablespoonfuls!
- As a special treat, sprinkle with grated cheese or add some M&M's or BOTH!
- When I lived in Africa, I couldn't get the special popcorn salt or the spray but it still tasted good and it was there that I figured out the secret of the pot with the vents. If you don't have a vented lid, just every now and again let some of the steam escape but without lifting the lid so much you shoot popcorn all over the place! The secret to really crisp popcorn is NO STEAM BUILD-UP!
Happy PoPpIng and thanks for putting up with my ramblings...I do get a bit maniacal where this subject is concerned. ;)