Ah, popped corn. It’s been around forever. Like thousands of years forever.
In my lifetime alone, I’ve used those lovely little tin foil covered disposable pans that my son has never even seen, hot air poppers, a pot on the stove, the giant oil popper during a stint as a video store clerk twenty some odd years ago, and finally the joy of all impatient kids and bane of anyone whose ever had to share a break room: prepackaged microwave popcorn.
Popcorn was magic– and it still is to my kids. I, on the other hand, now get the science behind the fluffy white puffs of corn that really signify nothing more than the reaction– water turning to steam as the kernels heat– that causes those poor little kernels to turn themselves inside out violently. Thank you, Alton Brown. Science is fun.
What’s the point here, though? I’m getting there. My kids love popcorn. It’s generally their afternoon snack, falling somewhere between school for boy and homework time. This is good– better than chips or cookies. Apples or grapes would be better, but I’m not going to push it here. If they had their way Starbursts and M&M’s would be considered snack foods instead of special treats.
What’s not to love about microwaved popcorn? Well, a lot, starting with the smell. It makes me a little queasy. Perhaps a carry over from pregnancy days or maybe just lingering memories of the chronic popcorn-burning co-worker. The texture is usually soft, and the color is a neon orange-yellow that I find to be a little disturbing. Please don’t get the idea that I’m a food snob. I’ve been known to use a boxed mix or canned frosting every now and again, and I think the best grilled cheese sandwiches come in the form of sliced white bread and Kraft singles.
It’s also expensive; at least it costs more money than I want to pay. Generally, it’s around a dollar a bag or a little less if you catch a sale. Too much money for a snack. Which leads me to my point. I know, I know. It just took me almost five paragraphs and six hundred words to get there. For shame.
In a fit of pique during a grocery shopping trip, my son begging me to buy popcorn that wasn’t on sale that week, I spied the jars of unpopped corn kernels way up on the top shelf. They cost about four dollars for a 30 oz. bottle. Surely this was the answer. So I bought them. They proceeded to live in my pantry for months and months next to, you guessed it, box after box of on-sale microwaved popcorn. Why? Because I had no idea how I was going to cook them. I didn’t have an air popper. The idea of shaking them in a pot of hot oil over the stove was unappealing. So they sat until I saw something amazing. According to a quick snippet in a Martha Stewart magazine (I think it was), I could stick those puppies in a brown paper bag and in a few minutes: poof–err—pop. Magic.
So I finally did it. And, you know what? It was. Magic.
adapted from Alton Brown’s Plain Brown Popper recipe
1 brown paper lunch bag
¼ cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 tsp. vegetable oil
Measure out your popcorn, or make your kid do it for you.
Just a quarter of a cup of kernels makes about 7-8 cups popped corn.
Open a paper lunch bag and pour in the popcorn
and then the oil. I put the oil in the cap of the oil bottle because it was easier to handle for boy than my unwieldy measuring spoons.
Fold the top of the lunch bag over tightly—about half of an inch three times works for us. Handy (ha ha ha) tip: In most cases, the tip of your thumb to the first joint is approximately 1 inch in length.
Shake the contents of the bag.
Lay bag on its side, folded side facing down in microwave.
Heat the popcorn for 2-3 minutes on HIGH power. When the pops are more than 3-4 seconds apart, stop the microwave. We did five bags of popped corn last night in preparation for making homemade caramel popcorn (recipe coming soon), and we only burned one batch of popcorn. I was distracted and allowed it to cook for the full 3 minutes. See:
Interestingly, it didn’t stink up the house. The microwave does get a little greasy from the oil, though. Be sure to wipe it down when you’re finished.
Most of the bags took between 1 minute 50 seconds to 2 minutes 20 seconds each.
Let the popcorn sit for 20-30 seconds.
Take it out of the microwave, shake the bag, and pour the popcorn into a big bowl.
To sift out the unpopped kernels, and there really seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to how many kernels remained so, I used my cooling racks.
After placing them together, I put them over the bowl containing the popcorn
and turned the bowl upside-down over another bowl.
The unpopped kernels fell through the racks, and the larger popped corn stayed above them.
Look at that delicious fluffy, white, unadulterated popcorn.
Now go drown it in butter and salt. You know you want to.
Yield: ¼ cup kernels = approximately 8 cups popped corn
Oh, and just a side note. Did you know that unpopped isn’t technically a word? Why? Why? Why?