Thursday, August 9, 2012

Festival Food at Home- Kettle Corn!

If you're like me, you love festival and fair food. It's only available in the summer time and you find yourself craving it every year when June rolls around.

I grew up in the city that hosts the Missouri State Fair and I have a confession, I don't love that fair. Every year the fair would come to town with it's hoard of state troopers, tourists who didn't know which lane of traffic went where and nary an available restaurant seat to be had. Residents stocked up on supplies like a blizzard was coming or went to the lake for an extended vacation.

I also worked the fair as a teenager on those parking lot trams that, for 50 cents a person, would take you to the front gate. I did this for two years until I was old enough to get my first real job in fast food.

Newer fairs and festivals are quite different for me and now I look forward to street vendors selling deep-fried confections, sandwiches in foil wrappers and corn on the cob with any number of toppings. I love to wander through craft tents touching and smelling and shaking my head at demonstrators hawking products I don't need. I like the fairs and I want the food year round. Imagine my surprise when I learned, quite by accident, how to make kettle corn quickly and on the very very cheap.

The key to good kettle corn is an oil popper with a stir stick. You can do this with a pot and spoon but be very careful since the sugar gets super hot. The rest is very simple. I've given the measurements in parts, with my measurements in parenthesis, so you can scale up or down to your tastes. Don't skimp on the oil, it helps keep the sugar from burning.

My little oil popper

Kettle Corn
1 part oil (1/4 c.)
1 part white sugar (1/4 c.)
2 parts popcorn kernels (1/2 c.)

  • Add all the ingredients to your oil popper before you turn on the heat.
  • Turn on the heat like you normally would. If you're cranking a popper over the stove burner yourself, do not stop moving the stir stick. If you're using an electric popper just let it do it's thing.
  • The kernels will start to pop slowly and then pick up the pace.
  • You want to dump the popcorn right as you hear the popping start to slow down. Waiting for the 2-3 seconds between pops will let the sugar scorch. You will have a few more "old maids" than usual. This is normal but most of the popcorn should have popped.
  • Be careful! The sugar will be hot and can easily burn you.
  • Dump the popcorn into a bowl and salt (or not if you don't want to)
  • Break up any clumps after the popcorn is cool enough to handle.
  • Store any remaining kettle corn in an airtight container or bag.

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