Cheap Recipe: Kettle Corn

17 Dec

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Emily strikes again.

People get really excited when I utter the phrase “homemade kettle corn,” as if there is something mystical and secret about mixing a little sugar into a pan of popcorn.

There is not. Kettle corn is actually very cheap and easy to make. I frequently take treats to school, and I’ve discovered that teenagers actually get more excited about a tub of kettle corn than they do about a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. I guess they figure anybody can make cookies, but kettle corn is one of those special treats that you can only get at fairs and carnivals, which makes it rare and special.

Whatever the reason, this is good for me, because cookies take roughly 10 times as much effort and expense as kettle corn, which I can make in 10 minutes or less.

To start, measure out a third of a cup of unpopped popcorn and set it aside. Get out a big saucepan or a stockpot with a lid (clear glass lids work best, because you can monitor the popping better, but an opaque lid will work in a pinch) and pour in enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom. I use canola oil, but any relatively stable oil will work — corn, peanut, whatever.

Dump in popcorn and sugar as soon as the test kernels have popped.

Toss in three “test kernels” and wait for them to pop. While you wait, measure out a quarter-cup of white sugar and set aside. Disable the smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan, because you will probably burn the first couple of batches before you get the hang of this.

As soon as your test kernels have popped, dump in the popcorn and sugar, cover, and give the pan a good shake. Remove it from heat, shake it around in a circular motion for three seconds, then return it to the burner for three seconds. Repeat this process until most of the corn has popped.

Remove from heat, dump into a large bowl, and sprinkle with salt, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to mix in the salt and keep the kernels from sticking together and turning into a giant popcorn ball.

Kettle corn is ridiculously easy to make.

The big trick is to keep the pan moving enough to prevent the sugar from scorching.

If some kernels are coated in what appears to be caramelized sugar, remove them before serving, as they will have a bitter, burned taste.

Enjoy the accolades of everyone fortunate enough to sample your handiwork. Kettle corn will stay crispy for several days if stored in a sealed container; just be sure to let it cool completely before closing the container to prevent condensation from ruining the texture.

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