If you have ever been to a state or county fair, or visited one on the many small carnivals that travel the United States, then you have most definitely had one of the oldest treats around...kettle corn. In fact, it is even a staple at our world famous 'Canton First Monday Trades Day.' Now, you do not have to wait until the fair comes to town to get your kettle corn fix, because making kettle corn is so easy that anyone can make their own delicious version of this carnival treat.
In this article, I will show you how to make kettle korn that is not only delicious, but it won't cost you $5.00 a bag that many people fork over while out shopping at 'First Monday.' Don;t get me wrong, I am not a 'First Monday' hater, I just hate spending that kind of hard earned cash for something that I can make for $0.40. So if you are like me, ad would rather keep your money in your pocket then keep on reading, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Kettle corn is so simple, but so delicious, with only four ingredients, almost anyone can make kettle corn. If you can operate a microwave oven then you can make delicious kettle corn or stove top popcorn in less than 15 minutes. Yes I know it takes quite a bit longer when compared to microwave versions that you could buy at your local supermarket, but the taste and texture of homemade kettle corn is far superior and quite a bit cheaper to make.
½ cup of popcorn kernels
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup of canola, vegetable or corn oil
salt to taste
Combine the sugar and popcorn kernels in a small bowl and set aside.
Add the oil to your Dutch oven and place the heat on medium high. Add three popcorn kernels from either the bag or container in which you keep your popcorn or from the ½ cup of popcorn that you measured out and add them to the Dutch oven making sure they are sitting in the oil (see Three Kernel Test) do not forget to place the lid on your Dutch oven.
Chef's Note: The Dutch oven I use for making kettle corn or stove top popcorn has a 5 quart or 4.7 liter capacity.
When the Dutch oven is hot enough add the sugar and popcorn kernels and swirl them around so that the sugar and popcorn kernels are thoroughly mixed in the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Once the kernels of popcorn begin to pop vigorously, pick up the Dutch oven from the burner and shake it a few times and put it back on the burner. Do this every 15 to 20 seconds while the popcorn is popping. This shaking process not only keeps the popped popcorn from burning, it also helps to evenly distribute the sugar over all the popped kernels.
Chef's Note: Make sure you have a good set of pot holders or oven mits as the handles of your Dutch oven can get hot during the cooking process and you do not want to burn your hands when making kettle corn or regular popcorn.
Once the popping has slowed considerably, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and begin the salting or seasoning process (see below). If you leave the popcorn in the Dutch oven without tossing it while you are seasoning it, the residual heat could cause some of the popcorn to burn.
Once you have salted or seasoned your kettle corn, dump it onto a cookie sheet and allow it to cool. Initially it make stick together, but once the sugar has cooled (2 to 3 minutes) it easily breaks apart. After it is cooled, I dump the kettle corn in a brown paper bag (the kind you put ice cream in at your local Walmart) and shake it to separate the kernels. Eat it out of the bag, or dump it into a big bowl for sharing.
Chef's Note: If you decide you do not want kettle corn, simply omit the sugar follow the same process to make regular popcorn. If you like butter flavored popcorn, after you have salted the popcorn pour 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the popcorn and shake to coat evenly.
Salting or Seasoning Your Kettle Corn
Once the popping has slowed down considerably, it is time to start adding the salt to the kettle corn. There is no scientific way to do this, and everyone has their own method and or tastes, but I will tell you how I salt my kettle corn and you can determine what works best for you.
I remove the lid and add 21 shakes of the salt shaker to the Dutch oven, replace the lid and then shake the Dutch oven a few times, remove the lid and repeat 4 more times. And yes, I actually count from 1 to 21 each time I shake the salt shaker, but that is how I maintain the consistency of the flavor of the kettle corn.
Now, we have an old set of Rubbermaid salt shakers and we have been using these for more than 15 years so I am used to the amount of salt that it distributes when you shake it. Your shaker may put out more or less salt per shake so you will have to experiment to determine how many shakes you need to make sure the flavor is the way that you and your family like it.
Three Kernel Test
One of the biggest tips I can give you for making perfect kettle corn or regular stove top popcorn is to use the three kernel test.
The three kernel test is just that, after you add the oil to your Dutch oven and turn on the burner to medium heat you take three kernels of popcorn and place them in the oil.
Once all three of the kernels have popped, then it is time to add the remaining kernels and sugar to the Dutch oven.
Seasoned Popcorn Salts
Generally I do not use seasoned popcorn salts, but many people do and enjoy them immensely. To make a quick popcorn seasoning salt add 1 teaspoon of your seasoning of choice to 4 to 5 teaspoons of table salt and mix thoroughly. Place it in a old spice shaker and use in place of regular salt on stove top popcorn, but not your kettle corn, unless you just want to experiment.
Barbecue – 1 teaspoon barbecue rub seasoning, 4 to 5 teaspoons table salt.
Cajun – 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning, 4 to 5 teaspoons table salt.
Creole – 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning, 4 to 5 teaspoons table salt.
Ranch – 1 teaspoon dry ranch seasoning, 4 to 5 teaspoons table salt.
Taco – 1 teaspoon taco seasoning, 4 to 5 teaspoons table salt.
These are just a few of the more common seasoning choices, but any spice mixture can be added to a salt to make a seasoned salt. Adjust the amounts of the seasonings to suit you and your families personal preferences.
While making kettle corn on the stove top does take more time than simply throwing a bag in the microwave, the cost savings are however quite significant. You can use the popcorn of your choice, and I have included three brands of yellow popcorn sold at my local Walmart, but I will be honest we use the cheapest Great Value brand and it works great every time.
Great Value Yellow Popcorn $1.88 for 32 ounces ($0.06 per ounce)
Jolly Time Yellow Popcorn $3.10 for 30 ounces ($0.10 per ounce)
Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Yellow Popcorn $5.20 for 45 ounces ($0.12 per oz.)
So let's look at what it costs to make your own kettle corn using Great Value yellow popcorn. Corn oil ¼ cup (2 ounces) $0.05 per ounce, sugar ¼ cup (2 ounces) $0.06 per ounce, popcorn ½ cup (4 ounces) $0.06 per ounce, for a total cost of $0.46 per batch. So how much does a $0.46 batch of popcorn yield? That's an interesting question as there is a lot on conflicting information out here on the world wide web regarding the yield of unpopped popcorn, but according to Utah State University you should get the following yields with unpopped popcorn kernels:
2 tablespoons unpopped kernals (1/8 cup) = 4 cups popped
¼ cup unpopped kernals = 8 cups popped
½ cup unpopped kernals = 16 cups popped
That's $0.028 (2.8 cents) per cup of home made kettle corn. On average a 3.5 ounce bag of microwave kettle corn when popped is about 9 cups. Just for comparison I have listed three of the more popular brands of microwave kettle corn available at my local Walmart.
Act II Kettle Corn 6ct $2.80 ($0.47 per bag) or $0.052 per cup (5.2 cents)
Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Corn 12ct $5.20 ($0.43 per bag) or $0.057 per cup (5.7 cents)
Pop Weaver Kettle Corn 6ct $2.10 ($0.35 per bag) or $0.038 per cup (3.8 cents)
So you see that even the cheapest brand of microwave kettle corn 'Pop Weaver' is 27% more expensive cup for cup than making kettle corn with Great Value unpopped popcorn kernels.
Making your own kettle corn at home is an inexpensive and delicious treat for you and your family. In fact you can save 25 to 30% by making your own kettle corn as opposed to buying the less flavorful microwave brands. So skip the microwave and breakout your Dutch oven and make a big batch of kettle corn and sit back and enjoy a movie or watch your favorite sporting event and enjoy not only the fruits of your labor, but the satisfaction of knowing you saved almost 30% off the price of microwave kettle corn. As always if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends on Facebook and Google+. Don't forget to send us a friend request so that you will not miss any of our new articles.