In defense of corn

It’s cold, gray, and raining buckets here in Northern California, causing me to feel distinctly snacky. Problem is, the SOLE food lifestyle doesn’t really support the quick, salty, fatty comfort food like I crave right now. I eyed a persimmon – too healthy. A couple of walnuts failed to satisfy. Then, while digging through the cupboard in search of cocoa for hot chocolate, I came across a bag of organic popcorn I’d bought at the market a while ago from Full Belly Farm. (The Wikipedia entry has more than anyone could want to know about popcorn.) What with "King Corn" the movie, crop subsidies, and all the vilification of high fructose corn syrup around here, it’s easy to forget that corn in its natural state is not "bad." 

Believe it or not, I had to look up how to "make" popcorn, having relied on the microwave variety for so long — that is, until I discovered it was full of trans fats. But making it on the stove takes literally the same amount of time as sticking a bag in the microwave, and you’re much less likely to burn it.

Put two tablespoons of oil, or if you have it, good lard, in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Turn heat to high. When oil is hot or lard has melted, toss in three kernels and cover. Meanwhile, melt a few tablespoons of butter on the stove or in a microwave.

When you hear the three kernels pop, wait about 10 more seconds and then pour in a half-cup of popcorn. Cover and return to heat. As soon as the kernels start popping, hold pan and lid off heat and shake. Put pot back on flame for a few seconds. Repeat until you hear the kernels slowing down, at which point take it off heat entirely.

Pour it in a bowl, drizzle butter over the top, salt to taste, and mix with your hands. I like grated parmesan in mine, but I discovered it’s better if you use a zester to grate it so it’s very fine. Makes about 10 cups worth. And yes, I shared it!


18 Responsesto “In defense of corn”

  1. Janet says:

    What a hoot! I never stopped making popcorn on top of the stove, and I have a popcorn habit. I never use high heat, though (and I’d discourage anybody from doing so unless they have a really heavy pan), which might be why I don’t need to shake the pan. I put my corn in as soon as the pilot kernels pop. But, if it works for you, go for it! Meanwhile, if you’re ever tempted to use that old microthin-bottom pan that you got when you were 19, definitely go for the medium-low temp, or your oil is going up in smoke. Other than that, your directions are perfect. ;-)

  2. David says:

    I was disappointed to find out this Christmas that my mother had given away her popcorn popper — something that plugs into the wall and works just like the stovetop method. Instead, she relies now on microwave popcorn.

  3. Jen says:

    It really must be the weather in because when it started raining last night, I too craved some home-made popcorn (which I had never made before last night, though I’d had the kernels on-hand for a good while). My favorite topping is black pepper… When I was young it was melted peanut butter and jelly (which I can’t really imagine eating now…yikes!)

  4. Laura says:

    You can actually still do your popcorn in the microwave if you’re nervous about doing it on the stove. Put 1/3 cup of kernals in a bowl. Put 1/4 tsp of veggie/canola oil in a spoon and mix it into the kernals. Pour kernals into a brown paper lunch sack and fold top over 2 times. Lay on side in microwave, shake slightly to evenly distribute kernals. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until there’s more than 1 second between pops. Shake with some salt and enjoy.

  5. Amanda Rose says:

    It is entirely possible that we have popcorn in this house right now. This requires further investigation.


  6. Corn Maven says:

    We watched The Namesake this afternoon, while keeping warm and dry and snacking on popcorn (we both had the day off). Of course, my partner was a C.P.A. (certified popcorn addict) long before we got together and has always made it on the stove, however, I can take credit for her conversion to organic seed. :)

  7. Local popcorn (with maybe a little local butter on top?) is the ideal comfort/snack food in cold weather, Bonnie. Glad you treated yourself! And I’m with Janet… I never stopped making mine on the stovetop, just like my mom and my grandmother did, though I don’t use bacon fat leftover from breakfast bacon any more. (Mmmmmm… memories…)

  8. Steph says:

    Awhile ago on a listserv I’m on, we had a debate about making regular popcorn in the microwave in a paper bag. I would caution people that it can sometimes end up in a small fire.

    My favorite toppings for popcorn in addition to the salt are dill and cayene, nutritional (brewer’s) yeast, or hot sauce and lime. My Mexican friends taught me that last one, it’s great!

  9. Jenni P says:

    Here in Washington State, I like popcorn from the Starving Farmer, and I love it dusted with cumin.

    We own and regularly use our oil popper, a contraption that moots the question of shaking, since it has a skinny little metal arm to circulate under the kernels. I’ve tried using lard for popping (OK, bacon grease) an idea better in theory than execution. Probably plain ol’ lard would have been better, but now I’m reluctant to experiment.

  10. Anna says:

    I don’t eat popcorn much myself because I have to ration the glucose-raising foods, but I do make it now and then for my son and friends for sleepovers and movie nights. I use the pot and stove method, too, though I usually use coconut oil (the same stuff the CSPI got the movie theaters to *stop* using). I use a *lot more butter* though :-). Freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese (with a microplaner) is awesome, too.

    Microwas popcorn is nasty stuff indeed. Smells like old dirty socks, too.

  11. Emily says:

    I put enough kernels in a paper lunch bag to cover the bottom, then microwave for 1.5 minutes or until the popping slows down. With no oil, this is kinda dry, so I spritz with Bragg’s Aminos to make the salt stick.

  12. Parke says:

    Yay, popcorn. Real popcorn from a stove is one of my kids’ favorite snacks. It brings back memories of my own childhood. Though my mother was the main cook in the family, Dad was always the popcorn maker. The kids had just one rule, though. Dad always had to have his own bowl and wasn’t permitted to share the kids’ big common bowl. He’d have eaten it all.

  13. Kim says:

    I am a popcorn addict, myself. I make it on the stovetop or in an air-popper, depending upon my current state of mind regarding my diet for the day. Seriously, I could eat it everyday! Sometimes I pop it in olive oil on the stovetop, which then only requires a little salt, and it’s pretty much health food, if you ask me!

  14. Anne says:

    I am anti-microwave but very pro-popcorn. It really is the only snack that will do, when I get that crunchy urge. I’m surprised that air-poppers aren’t more popular. Stove top *does* taste better, but I think it’s more high anxiety, so I prefer the air-popper :) (And how can you beat it for cheap entertainment? Watch those popcorn kernels zing uncontrollably around the room! I find that making a ‘hood’ with a dishtowel limits their mobility.) Yum!

  15. Bonnie P. says:

    Boy, you people love your popcorn! Thanks for speaking up! I think I’m hooked. Now I’m going to start playing with flavors.

  16. Sarah says:

    Mmmm…popcorn. I prefer the entertainment value of an air-popper, but I don’t have one right now, so I’ve been making lots of stovetop popcorn. Our CSA is having their annual meeting in a couple of weeks, which will feature a screening of King Corn along with farm-grown popcorn :-)

  17. Melanie says:

    My favorite Christmas gift ever was an air popper – no oil necessary!

  18. Glenn says:

    Microwave popcorn is the work of the Devil…is it just me here in NYC or are popcorn kernels for stove top (or air) popping almost impossible to find these days? It seems that the evil microwave popcorn brands have all but wiped out the regular kernels completely! Food fascists!