Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pop Your Own Damn Popcorn (and other things that make me cranky)

cayenne popcorn

Did anyone else enjoy Mark Bittman's excellent hissy fit regarding MacDonald's breakfast oatmeal? The Man of Science sent the link to me as soon as he saw it, knowing that my own freak outs regarding "convenience" foods tend to take a similar tone.

See, I understand why people might want to buy instant versions of more complicated food. I know cooking certain kinds of foods takes time and effort and not everyone can spend half an hour in the kitchen at the end of a long day. What I don't get is "instant" versions of food that have fewer than three ingredients and take almost no time to prepare. Regular readers will know that I have a particular hatred for powdered iced tea. It's just tea! With ice! And lemon and sugar if you're fancy! Why does this need to be processed and powdered and loaded with chemicals? It makes me insane.

pop your own

Guess what else I feel this way about? You got it. Popcorn. When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure that popcorn was made on the stove top. Then suddenly there were large, clunky one-use kitchen appliances specifically for doing this job. Then came chemically saturated, oily, smelly little packets and microwaves with one-touch settings just to turn them into popcorn!

Okay, I'll admit that I have never, since moving out of the house I shared with friends in my second year of university, had a microwave in my kitchen. So I have not really left myself with the option of having microwave popcorn, even if I thought it was a good idea. But I don't think it is a good idea. At least not when you have an obliging stove top at your disposal.

I made a big bowl of popcorn for the Man of Science and I to share on Saturday afternoon and it took me less than five minutes, start to finish. The popcorn that I used was organic, bought cheaply from the bulk bins at a nearby health food store. I popped it with a bit of safflower oil and then sprinkled mine with salt and pepper and the Man of Science's with salt and cayenne pepper. It tastes better than microwaved popcorn. It is better for us. We get to choose our own seasonings. The clean up is fairly negligible. What's not to love?

cayenne popcorn

So, if you've never popped popcorn on the stove top here's how you do it:

Find a medium sized pot with a reasonably thick bottom, and some kind of lid.

Pour enough oil into the pot so that there is a thin layer of oil on the bottom of the pot.

Toss in three or four popcorn kernels. These are your canary kernels. They'll pop to let you know that the oil is ready.

Heat the pot over medium heat with the lid on until you hear the kernels pop.

Dump in 1/2 cup kernels and put the lid back on.

Shake the pot a bit. Rest it on the heat for a few seconds. Shake the pot again. Rest it on the heat again.

Repeat until popping slows down to one pop every five seconds or so. Remove from heat.

Season as you see fit.

Enjoy while getting caught up on American Idol and thinking about how your mom must be in love with Paul MacDonald because he's all cute and bearded and charming and now he's gone and sang "Maggie Mae" to seal the deal.*

popcorn and American Idol

It snowed a lot last night. I try not to complain about such things, but I'm tired of winter. So please excuse my crankiness.



Eat To The Beat: P.J. Harvey - The Last Living Rose


VeganLisa said...

I always make popcorn on my stovetop. I love that friends and my niece and nephews think of this as my "party trick". Producing a big bowl of fluffy popcorn results in great praise and amazement. I hope they don't read your blog.

Daisy said...

I just discovered the stovetop popcorn last year...I grew up with a hot air popper.

And I'm tired of the snow too!

Amie said...

I love stovetop popcorn! I really enjoy the process of making it too, but sometimes I just don't have the capacity to do so and that's when microwave popcorn is great. Same goes for other instant/convenience foods. Sometimes they really are more convenient and more accessible.

Having said that, my partner works in a tea shop and the number of people who are astounded that you can make your own iced tea from actual tea is just ridiculous.

Mary said...

My favorite is popcorn cooked in olive oil, with a lot of nutritional yeast added after.

Nat said...

We're air poppers around here... best $20 I ever spent.

(Though I will admit I haven't made it on the stove in a very very very long time.)

ciaochow said...

Well argued. I love the taste of stovetop and hate the smell of microwave popcorn but having a ceramic stovetop means no stovetop popcorn. Besides for the once-in-a-blue-moon time we have popcorn, I'd miss seeing this:

Fanny said...

I always make popcorn on the stove top, even though we always had microwaved ones when I was a kid. I understand your crankiness, the snow came back here last night, before that it was almost spring! sigh.

foodfeud said...

My parents actually bought me a popcorn cooker for a housewarming party, which is funny because a)you can make popcorn in any pot and b)I'm not particularly enamored of popcorn enough to justify owning such a gadget, but it was a cute gift. And anyway, YES, homemade is certainly so much better than the microwave packets. They stink up everything! Bleh!

Mihl said...

I don't have a microwave and I don't have a popcorm machine. One time when we were on vacation in Portugal, we had a microwafe in the house we were staying. We tried out microwafe popcorn. It was fun but I really like the stovetop method, too.

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Wow, thanks for weighing in everyone! Looks like I'm primarily preaching to the choir.

My mom sent me a message this morning letting me know that in the book I mentioned in another post "Slow Death By Rubber Duck" (about how we're all going to die because of the chemicals in our environement) microwave popcorn bags are listed as being bad news. Here's her message:

"Hi Jen,

I also remember that the Rubber Duck book said that the insides of the microwave popcorn bags have the same bad chemical coating as tin cans!!

And YAY!!! for Paul MacDonald!!

Mom "

Martha Lynn said...

There's actually a health condition associated with microwave popcorn exposure: Popcorn Lung. If that doesn't convince you that most microwave convenience foods are toxic, then I don't know what will!

My go-to family pleaser is p-corn on the fast and tasty! We love it with lemon pepper and nutritional yeast. And a few dashes of tabasco or tapatio if we're feeling saucy!

Susan G said...

If you are not against microwaves, you can make plain bulk popcorn in an old fashioned brown paper lunch bag (easy but not as tasty as the stove version with a little oil).

Angela said...

Stovetop popcorn is the best. I haven't had it at home in a long time because our stovetop is ceramic. I have considered buying a little plug in burner/hotplate thingy just to make popcorn! I laughed out loud at 'canary kernel'.

EllenVan said...

I'm de-lurking to say that I'm so glad you posted this recipe. There's no microwave in my kitchen either and it seems ridiculous to buy an air popper.
I had a bad experience trying to make stovetop popcorn the first time(burned a borrowed pot!), but I am feeling encouraged to try it again. I want to mix it with dehydrated kale and nutritional yeast as my own personal Veggie Booty.

Jessica said...

Hey guys with ceramic stovetops - We make popcorn on ours several times a week. It works just fine. No damage - great popcorn.

Elaine Shandra said...

My dad always makes his on the stovetop. His "popcorn pot" is so black with use, but he loves it! He taught me how to make popcorn and when a friend and I tried to make some one day (not the first time), we lifted the lid and a fire erupted! Needless to say, we panicked and threw it into the snow outside. I pretty much only have popcorn when I visit my parents. My work has a popcorn machine with the chemically based popcorn seasoning. I loved it at first, but it started making me sick. Now it makes me sick to even smell it, yuck!