Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Simple Act of Popping Corn

Homemade buttered popcorn, made the old fashioned way, in a pot on the stovetop, can truly bring folks together. Make some and see where it takes you! Homemade buttered popcorn, made the old fashioned way, in a pot on the stovetop, can truly bring folks together. Make some and see where it takes you!

Old Fashioned Homemade Popcorn

Don't think I've gone off the deep end for publishing a "recipe" for popcorn. Today's post is more about a story than a recipe. It's a story about the simple act of popping corn.

I don't mean sticking a bag of popcorn in the microwave either. Not that there is a thing wrong with that of course! Heaven knows I've popped my share in that metal box, though today we most often eat it popped in a hot air popper {affil link}.

I love that little thing!! No, this is about pouring popcorn kernels into a pot with some hot oil and popping corn on the top of the stove - like we once used to before those air poppers were around and before microwaves were a central appliance in our homes.

One day recently, when my son and daughter in law came to pick up the grandkids, on the kitchen counter sat the remnants of a large bowl of cold popcorn we had popped earlier. My son dove right into that bowl and looking a little nostalgic, mentioned something to the effect of "I used to have popcorn like this at Nuna Helen's house. We used to make it all the time." Nuna Helen was what my son called my mama, and I took notice that his memory was not of having popcorn with his mama even though we'd certainly had our share of popcorn together, but he remembered sharing it with his grandma. It hadn't even occurred to me when I made popcorn for my grandkids that day - it was just an automatic thing to pop some popcorn while they were here. Seeing my son munching on that popcorn and hearing him say that, brought a smile to my face and a warm feeling, deep in my heart.

There really is something magical that happens when the corn begins to pop. It gathers up people from all across the house. It brings people together. The aroma instantly transports your mind to memories of people and places long passed. Times where people engaged with one another instead of being glued to some handheld contraption. Times with family gathered around the television. Sitting and coloring with your grandma. And, it might even make your mom, dad, and even your grandma, recall days past with her own grandma. Yes, the simple act of popping corn can do this!

Don't believe me? Joan T. is a reader from the New Jersey area who is dear to me and we've exchanged emails with one another for awhile now. In late October, Joan shared something that touched my heart so deep, that it caused my eyes to well up. Y'all do that to me often with your letters. You want to know how magical the simple act of popping corn can be? Joan gave me permission to share with you, what she shared with me. I might as well warn you. Better grab a tissue.
"You know my Mother is in hospice in long term care. She doesn't eat much but I still cook... ok so today I was given permission to bring in a hot plate and make "home made" popcorn.

Mother is on a hospice and dementia ward with most of the aides & caretakers from other countries. Anyhow, you would have thought popping corn was magic.

Of course I let a couple of the bouncing kernels pop out of the pan before I put the lid on. Many of the residents who are cognitively impaired or with dementia smiled, and couple laughed. Maybe it was the real butter and salt. The Doc on duty was good and said that wouldn't hurt them.

The smell must have spread as I was asked to make more on the rehab section. Comments like "wow, microwave doesn't taste like this," "do you have a recipe?" and "is it expensive?" were heard.

Expensive.. haha, must have cost me one dollar to make three big pots full.

Mary, just more proof that cooking is a tangible form of Love. Mom smiled and called me a "good girl" and several other residents hugged me. I know that they can't explain with words what they were thinking, but something as simple as 'old fashioned' popcorn, maybe it was the smell, got through to them."
You see? This is the connection that we have to our food and one that other folks who live outside of the southern region of this country sometimes just don't understand. Until the magic happens. For us, food is love. The act of preparing and sharing food is way more than the physical process of preparing it and the act of nourishment. It nourishes our soul too and it's a very big way that we southerners express our love. When a southerner sets a plate of food that they have lovingly prepared down in front of you, know that it is an expression of our love.

Sometimes it may be nothing more than the simple act of popping corn for it to be magical. Joan's mother passed away not long after she wrote to me. I am glad that she was able to share her love with those elders with something as simple as the act of popping corn. Sometimes, that's really all it takes.

We usually spend time with the grandkids at their house because that is where all their "stuff" is, but when they come over here, you can bet there will be chairs pulled out from the table with caves fashioned from blankets. There will be things to color and cut out and play pretend, and other simple old-fashioned fun things that don't require batteries. And, I can guarantee you that there will be always be popcorn popped, on the stove, just like my mama did and just like her mama before her did. I want that same feeling to reside in the memories of my own grandchildren.

One important note. These instructions are intended for a gas range top, or the old fashioned coil type of electric stoves. Most of us have a glass or ceramic cooktop these days, so to make popcorn the old-fashioned way without damaging your cooktop, you'll want a popcorn popper that allows you to stir, rather than shake the pot, like the original Whirly Bird popper.

Now, go make some homemade buttered popcorn the old fashioned way. You'll save a few bucks, and you'll get to see the magic happen.

By the way, here's how I like to make buttered popcorn. I have a couple variations I do to flavor it sometimes, but this is the basic way I make it, in a vintage Revere Ware Copper Clad 1970-something pot, on the stove. Using a paper bag isn't written in stone of course, you can certainly manage without it. But it does have a great way of distributing the salt evenly all over the popcorn - something that you don't get tossing it in a bowl.

For more of my favorite snacks, visit my page on Pinterest!

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Recipe: Old Fashioned Homemade Popcorn

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Cook time: 5 min | Yield: About 4 quarts

  • 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of raw popcorn kernels
  • Large pinch of kosher salt

Set aside a large paper grocery bag. Prepare popcorn using your favorite method. If using a gas or coiled burner (not a flat top), add 2 tablespoons of oil and three corn kernels in a large heavy bottomed lidded pot, cover and heat over medium to medium high heat until you hear a pop. Uncover and add in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the popcorn, stir together and cover the pot. Using oven mitts to protect your hands and arms from the steam, with two potholders to hold your pot, gently shake the pot back and forth over the burner constantly until popping accelerates and then begins to slow down, with a second or two delay between pops.

Remove from heat and carefully pour the popcorn into the paper bag. Season with a large pinch of kosher salt, close the bag, shake well. Transfer to a large bowl, or several small ones and serve immediately.

Cook's Note: These instructions are intended for a gas range top, or the old fashioned coil type of electric stoves. If you have a glass or ceramic cooktop you'll need a popcorn popper that allows you to stir, rather than shake the pot, like the original Whirly Bird popper, to cook stovetop, or use an air popper or microwave popper.

Movie Theater Popcorn: Prepare popcorn using your favorite method. Melt 1 stick butter. Pour 1/3 of the popcorn into the bag and top with about 1/3 of butter; repeat layering. Season with salt, then toss again.

Cheesy Popcorn: You will need between 1/3 and 1/2 cup cheese powder. {affil link} Prepare popcorn using your favorite method. Pour 1/3 of the popcorn into the bag and top with about 1/3 of cheese powder; repeat layering. Drizzle with melted butter, as desired, then season with salt and toss again.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on December 1, 2011
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