When I was a kid, my family used to take a trip to Branson, Missouri nearly every year to visit Silver Dollar City, and if you’ve been there, you know that there are tons of good things to eat in the park. One of my favorites was always the kettle corn – a perfect balance of crispy, salty, and sweet – and so light that it was almost like eating air. Kettle corn always makes me think of the holidays, and with Christmas just around the corner, I can’t imagine a better snack to have while trimming the tree. Kettle corn isn’t that hard to make at home, and with a little patience and care you can have that salty-sweet taste any time you’d like. An added bonus of making it at home is that you can add some things to it that really take it over the top – but more on that later.
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup unpopped popcorn
- 1/4 cup white sugar. White sugar gives the popcorn a light, popcorn ball-like taste. For a richer flavor, feel free to use brown sugar.
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- Optional toppings: crushed chocolate covered pretzels (see right), crushed Twix, Heath, or Skor bars, cayenne pepper – or any other thing you can think of.
Heat the oil in a heavy copper-bottomed sauce pan on medium-high heat. I usually will throw one popcorn kernel into the oil and cover – when that kernel pops, the oil is hot enough. When the oil has heated, pour in your popcorn and sugar. Give everything a good, quick stir with a wooden spoon, then cover the saucepan. This is the tricky part, because you’ve got to keep the popcorn hot enough to pop, but you can’t scorch the sugar. You can accomplish this by leaving your pan on the burner for a 10-15 count at a time, then moving the pan around quickly off the heat so that everything gets stirred around. Be careful that you’re holding that lid down tightly so that you don’t splash yourself with molten oil and sugar (because there’s no burn quite like it). Pop the corn in this fashion until the pops get about 2-3 seconds apart – I usually will err on the side of caution. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt while still warm, and either eat like that or add the topping of your choice. Enjoy!