Old Fashioned Kettle Corn
My dad makes the best popcorn. Everyone loves his popcorn. He makes it for social gatherings, afternoon snack for my boys, and for the girls in my Mom's office at Christmas time. It is delicious. He makes regular popcorn and kettle corn. The secret is the old fashioned stovetop pan - the Whirley Pop. Dad taught me how to make it just like he does. Travis photographed the process one day for me so I could share how to make it with you. It is worth spending the money on the Whirley Pop pan; you can get them online or at specialty kitchen stores like Williams Sonoma, or Board & Basket if you live locally. These would be GREAT Father's Day gifts.
Just make sure it is a Whirley Pop brand and not a knock off. Trust me on this.Enjoy right away, or package and share with others. Just beware that once you share this popcorn people will ask you to make it often. Just ask my Dad :)
Here is my trusty Whirley Pop pan, all broken in from lots of use. The secret is the turn crank on the handle which spins an internal stirrer that keeps the popcorn moving across the bottom of the pan.
To make one big batch of kettle corn you will need about 1/2 cup of canola oil, 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter, 1/3 cup of white sugar, 1 Tbsp of Maple Sugar, and salt and pepper.
Pour the canola oil in the pan, approximately 1/2 cup, or enough to cover the bottom or the pan without going up the sides. I don't usually measure the oil or popcorn kernels but I tried this time so I could tell you an approximate amount.
Add the popcorn kernels, approximately 1/2 cup, or enough to provide a single layer over the oil in the bottom of the pan.
Then drop in your pat of butter, about one tablespoon.
Make sure you have a large bowl next to the stove, and wear an oven mitt on your left hand. Put your pan over medium to medium high heat on your stove, and have 1/3 cup of sugar ready. Once you hear the FIRST popping sound (this takes about 1-2 minutes), carefully open one side of the pan and drop your sugar in and then push the cover back down. Stand back while you do this because that oil is HOT and may splatter. Now with your right hand turn the side crank handle pretty steadily until you can no longer turn it. This is important so that your sugar and popcorn doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. As it starts to pop and fill up the pan remove from heat.
Once the popcorn is almost done popping one side of the cover will start to push open from the steam and pressure. This is why you need that bowl right there next to the stove ready for you to drop in the hot popcorn. I use my oven mitted hand to hold open that side cover and my other hand to shake the popcorn out into the bowl. It will be a little sticky from the sugar, so you may need to use a big spatula to help guide it out if it is stuck inside the pan. And it is okay if you drop some on the floor like me :)
This will make several cups of popcorn! Now you need to season.
It is important to balance out the sweetness with salt. Generously salt the popcorn, add a little pepper and then a few heavy sprinkles of maple sugar. You can't really taste the "maple" but this is the secret ingredient that brings the flavors together. We live right on the New Hampshire/Vermont border so maple products are readily available to us. If you can't find it locally you can order maple sugar from one of our favorite Vermont producers - Sugarbush Farms. Toss the popcorn and season again with all three seasonings - salt, pepper and maple sugar. You may need to use a big spoon to help toss it. Once you have seasoned it to taste cover with a clean dish towel and let it sit for about 10 minutes.