October is National Popcorn Month, so let me be the first to say Happy Happy! I don’t know about you, but when my thoughts turn to popcorn, my food memories kick in and I go back to a time before microwaves and air poppers.
Like many of you, I go back circa mid to late 1960’s. My brother Jaimie and I were 8, 9 or 10ish and when we were in need of a snack, our mom would let us make Jiffy Pop. If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a culinary gadget and the Jiffy Pop “cook it in the package” marketing was – at the time – the ultimate. I loved the process probably even more than the popcorn itself, inspired, as were many my age by the classic commercial with the magic genie in the lamp touting this popcorn as “The Magic Treat” “… as much fun to make as it was to eat” Before we go further – take a step back in time and watch it with me now…
If you didn’t have the luxury of Jiffy Pop, then you had to go back to the kettle type electric popcorn popper or a large heavy pop on the stove – both required working with hot oil and at least to my mom’s mind – were too dangerous for us to handle ourselves.
As I got older electric popcorn poppers became a bit more refined and when I was in college ( again in the days before microwaves) we used the non stick bowl or base of our electric popcorn poppers much like an electric skillet to cook everything from Kraft macaroni and cheese ( boiled first in the small hot pots we used to heat coffee, tea and soup) to browning ground beef or searing hamburger patties as much as we used it to make popcorn.
As I recall my popcorn popper then was made by Hamilton Beach and I know I opted for Flame Red over the Avocado Green and Harvest Gold colors offered. I honestly don’t really recall that it was endorsed by Joe Namath, but according to this old Spiegel Catalog ad – looks like that was the case.
Today technology has sadly eliminated the need for the same type of culinary creativity we had to muster back in the day and most people turn to the microwave to pop corn ( and make Mac and Cheese), but if you ask me – I still like popcorn popped in oil on the stove – calories or no – its all about the flavor.
Now, instead of vegetable oil I suggested using canola oil to start and then finish the fluffy popped kernels with a drizzling of real melted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt; or mix it up a bit with a grating of aged Parmesan cheese or a blend of salt and pepper; or better yet take a trip over to The Savory Spice Shop – I’m a regular at Charlotte’s SouthEnd location – Let owners Amy and Scott McCabe and their friendly staff help find one or two spice blends of flavor combos you like. Then just sprinkle them on and let the snacking begin!
However you pop it, Celebrate in style this month! Make some popcorn from scratch and enjoy life the old fashion way, one buttery kernel at a time… and then use the leftovers ( or pop a second batch) to make either of the two sweet treats or for a savory splash of popcorn, grind the popped kernels and use them in place of bread crumbs to crust chicken or fish or in addition to the flour for a bit of texture in your next batch of homebaked bread, pancakes or waffles – Happy National Popcorn month!
CHOCOLATE CHIP HONEY CARAMEL CORN
Instead of buying commercial brown sugar -I like to make my own by combining ¾ cup of organic sugar and ¼ cup local molasses and stirring until well blended. Worth noting here that my go to for molasses is local NC Sorghum Syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms – Doug Harrell tells me they’ve just finished up the 2015 season and its bottled up and ready to roll – order you can buy it in several shops up and around the Burnsville. NC area or call and order directly from the farm – for more details visit http://harrellhillfarms.com/molasses.htm ) Now onto the recipe…
10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup local honey
1 cup butter
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of fine ground salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups dark chocolate chips
Divide the popcorn and spread in simgle layers over two large parchment paper lined baking sheets with sides.
Combine the brown sugar, local honey, butter, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.
Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently until all the kernels are coated.
Bake for 1 hour in a preheated 200 degree oven, stirring every 20 minutes. Add the chocolate chips during the last 2-3 minutes of baking. Pull from oven and stir once again to mix chocolate in and around the caramel corn. Allow the popcorn to cool on the pan as the hot caramel is VERY hot, then, break the cooled pieces apart for easier eating and storage. When it has cooled, store the popcorn in a tightly sealed container and enjoy!
I first made these about the same time I first made Jiffy Pop. My very first cookbook was “Betty Crocker’s Boys and Girls Cookbook” among my favorite recipes was the one for Pink Popcorn Balls – you can make these any color with just a few drops of your favorite food coloring and if you want to add a bit of flavor, add a quarter to half tsp of any extract or flavoring for a treat fun of any occasion!
6 cups popped popcorn
3 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 ounce) package marshmallows
Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.
Remove from heat. Add popped popcorn and toss with a buttered spatula to coat. Coat your hands with melted butter or wear plastic gloves and shape the warm coated popcorn into balls. Allow to cool on a waxed paper or parchment paper lined tray, then wrap with plastic wrap to hold, or enjoy on the spot!