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Grocery News: Popcorn

By Katy Killilea

jackpopcorn1Popcorn’s been getting some well-deserved attention! It’s a whole grain. It’s easy to make. It makes your house smell good. It’s inexpensive. Pretty much everyone loves it. And according to my ancestors, it is one of the few things a family can munch with impunity while reading a magazine. Can’t say that about Fritos.

I don’t have a microwave, but even if I did, I’d pop my corn in a pot on the stove. Microwave popcorn smells like office cubicles or hospital waiting rooms. Corn popped on the stove smells toasty and relaxing. And what about all of that recent attention about the toxicity of microwave popcorn? It’s simple enough to sidestep that issue if you have heat, a pot, and a lid.

Normally I purchase the excellent popcorn kernels in the bulk food bin at Whole Foods. They are both economical and organic. About one-half cup of kernels pops up to fill a big bowl–enough for two hungry school boys and an occasional parent to munch after school,  right up until dinner time.

Since we’ve been popping so frequently, new popcorn varieties have captured my attention. Riehle’s Select Popping Corn for one. Riehle’s offers over a dozen varieties–they are blue, red, or yellow; some pop up to just pee-wee sized (adorable) while others look larger than you’d expect. Each has a slightly different taste (they vary in terms of sweetness, nuttiness . . . a better food writer might switch on her wine-tasting adjectives here) and appearance, and they also vary in tenderness. Some are even hull-less–that means no little toenails stuck between your teeth. The taste is addictive and so are the names: Shaman Blue, Rainbow Delight, Sunburst. We especially love the tender and tiny-size Baby Yellow. Yum.

My favorite way to make popcorn:

  • Over a medium flame, heat 1-2 tablespoons of ghee (or canola oil, or peanut oil) in a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid.
  • Measure out ½ cup of popcorn kernels and set aside.
  • Put 3 kernels in the pan and cover with lid.
  • Grind 2 teaspoons of salt with a mortar and pestle (microfine salt sticks better to the popcorn).
  • Listen for initial pops. Once the 3 test kernels pop, the pan is hot enough, so pour in the rest of the popcorn and the ground up salt. Cover with lid right away.
  • Shake the pan periodically until the popping slows enough for you to count a few seconds between pops.riehles-popcorn
  • Devour. Or if you are more civilized, pour fresh popcorn into a serving bowl and devour.

To make popcorn that’s different and only slightly less simple, fry some herbs (rosemary and sage are perfect) in a little butter or oil and pour the resulting seasoning over the popped corn.

The details:
Whole Foods Market
Bulk Organic Popcorn

Riehle’s Select
$18.99 for a sampler pack with half a pound of each of twelve varieties

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  • I use ghee to make popcorn because butter would burn before it got hot enough to pop the corn (olive oil too.) Ghee, peanut oil, corn oil…all OK. But melted butter poured over the already popped corn, in my book, tastes much better than ghee.

  • we have an air-popper that we love. doesn’t use any oil or butter (other than what we add when it’s done), plus it’s fun to watch. I think our two-year-old likes the activity almost as much as eating it afterwards. almost.