Yesss!!! I figured out how to make kettle corn with non-hydrogenated oil and real brown sugar, i.e. sucanat. This recipe was inspired by our trip this past weekend to an apple orchard and pumpkin patch. It was so fun, despite what the 15 year old will tell you. The kids saw some kettle corn for sale and asked for some. When I saw the big bag (the only size suitable for our family of 6 still at home) for $12, I told them no, because we would go home and I could make it for a lot cheaper. Some day they will thank me for my frugal ways!
I wanted to find a recipe that uses butter, instead of hydrogenated oil, and sucanat. I didn’t think that was too much of a tall order. But apparently, after a few fruitless Google search attempts, it was. Everything I found in the limited amount of time I had called for hydrogenated oil. So I gave up that Saturday night and just air popped the corn, and then poured on melted butter with sucanat and salt stirred in. In case you are wondering, that doesn’t count as kettle corn. The sugar didn’t dissolve and was in clumps on the popcorn. It still tasted good though! I was tired after a Saturday away from home and we were hungry and my family didn’t know any better so we ate it willingly for our family night movie (Disney’s Night Crossing, in case you are wondering.)
I was determined however, to make real kettle corn. So the next night, after much sleuthing, and by combining two recipes, I found what works. Here you go, real kettle corn with real food ingredients: real butter (clarified), real brown sugar (sucanat) and real salt! To get the real kettle corn taste you have to pop the popcorn in fat (no hot air popping) with the sugar added in before the popping starts. That way the sugar is caramelly-glazed onto the popcorn and doesn’t fall off. I am a huge caramel corn lover, but I prefer kettle corn now because it’s not so messy. I have never made kettle corn at home so hadn’t really thought about the difference until now.
Real Food Kettle Corn
1/4 cup clarified butter, aka ghee (create clarified butter by melting butter and spooning out, as much possible, the lighter yellow solids). You can also buy ghee already made.
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sucanat
1/4 tsp mineral salt
It is important to use ghee or clarified butter instead of regular butter because the ghee has a higher smoke point. So it can be heated higher, which is what you want when popping corn on the stove top.
While the butter is melting on low heat so you can separate the milk solids from the golden yellow fat, assemble everything else you need close to the stove top. You will be working quickly so you want everything in reach. This is called “mis en place” if you want to get fancy and French-y.
Mis en place:
- a big pot (the thicker the bottom of the pot, the better) on the stove top with a tight fighting lid ( you want a lid to act as a splatter screen or you will have hot butter and sugar and popcorn flying EVERYWHERE!)
- two potholders or oven mitts
- the salt
- 1/4 c sucanat
- 1/2 c popcorn
- a wooden spoon
OK, now for the popping fireworks!
After you have 1/4 c of melted ghee, put it in the pot. Place three popcorn kernels in the center of the pot. Heat on medium heat. Wait patiently a few minutes for all three kernels to pop. Then take off the lid and add the rest of the popcorn. Quickly pour the sugar on top, then stir the sugar in with the wooden spoon so it’s all mixed evenly. Then do some hula dancing with the pot. Grab the oven mitts or potholders, hold the lid on tightly, and swirl and shake the pan around over the burner. Soon the popcorn will start popping! Keep swirling the pot over the burner until you can count 2 seconds between pops. Then take off heat and let sit for a few minutes while the residual heat makes more of the kernels pop. When you think you won’t have any more kernels popping, take the lid off and pour into a big mixing bowl. Mix in the salt with the wooden spoon. Make more batches if you need more for your hungry family! I made three batches for our family of 6.
Controversy exists about what to do with the unpopped kernels. I was hoping to recycle them, with my thrifty ways, but dh told me to throw them away, saying they can’t be used again. But I found this article saying that you can eventually pop most of them. Some people say to soak them in water to increase their water content so they will be more likely to pop. Time for a homeschool science experiment! I had so many unpopped kernels next time I am going to try using just 1/4 c kernels.
If you end up burning some of the sugar mixture, which leaves black stuff in the bottom of the pot, an easy way to clean it is by boiling some water in the pot, pouring out the boiling water, then scrubbing the black stuff out with steel wool, baking soda, and dish soap.