So. “Caramel Corn.”
Like myself, I feel as if this stuff has been around for-fucking-ever.
And also like myself, I feel it’s misunderstood, often taken for granted, and in large part falls on the unfortunate scale of “I hate it” to “I really don’t mind it but prefer not to be bothered.”
Welcome to my life, Caramel Corn.
If you grew up, as I did and I wager each and every one of you over the age of 30 did as well, with the ubiquitous box of Cracker Jack being the benchmark (or only mark) of caramel corn, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s been a resurgence in its popularity thanks to a resurgence in the R&D department at Caramel Corn HQ.
Having deconstructed the bagged-and-shelved crap we’ve all been conditioned with, home chefs and snack companies and retail specialists and gourmet shops and all manner of foodie entrepreneurs have gone back to the basics and the science and the recipes of yore, and updated the staunch, stalwart circus-and-ball-game staple, elevating it to true “Treat” status by today’s more discerning and varied tastes.
I’ve been doing this for years now, mostly because years before I moved back into Manhattan, a boyfriend and I discovered an amazing artisan popcorn store in the theater district. The shop suffered the same fate as our relationship: as soon as we fell in love, we fell apart. He went back to Europe, and the popcorn store became a high-rent cosmetics store. I live less than a three-block walk from where it used to be, and every time I pass its floor-to-ceiling windows and spy, not Sweet Cheddar Kettle Corn but Day-Glo Eye Shimmer, I weep a bit inside, and feel the need to rush home and pull out my stove-top hand-cranked popper.
Recently, I did just that.
Note that, in my midtown studio apartment, one might be hard-pressed to find a packet of Equal or a saucepan small enough to heat up just a pack of Ramen noodles. But in my universe, mother-of-pearl caviar spoons, a half-dozen hookahs, almost as many fondue pots, and enough mini-muffin tins to fill (literally) eight ovens simultaneously, are almost as essential as the two paella pots large enough to hide the evidence of a double homicide.
So one must simply choose one’s priorities when scaling-to-fit on move-in day.
And the Pennsylvania Dutch hand-cranked popcorn popper is among those priorities. And truth be told, I keep an apothecary jar of Splenda for guests who need an artificial sweetener when the five different natural ones I have to offer won’t fit the bill.
So when facing, just the other day, the need to provide snack fare to a few different post-op friends to aid in their respective recuperations, as well as “Break a Leg” notions for the cast and crew of a favorite production company’s latest revue (admittedly a cheaper way of extending best wishes than with several dozen roses which would be dead soon anyway), I decided to pull Ma (that’s what I call my popcorn kettle… wait for it…) off the shelf and put her to work.
There will be more recipes to follow; I’ve created to great reception flavors ranging from Strawberry Shortcake to Peaches and Cream to Green Chai Latte Biscotti.
But herewith, a launching point, and the first three from the latest crop, freshly unearthed from my snacking files of yore.
You will find the basic recipes at each of these links, as well as the link to the prep method.
As always, I encourage tweaking and additions, and hope to hear from you when you engage in such wanton abandon.
Note that the amounts given for popcorn are what’s produced from fresh-popped, using 1/2 Cup of kernels in a conventional pan or air popper. You can do the whole bagged microwave thing as well (which produces just shy of the yield of a fresh batch) or use the unbuttered and unflavored plain old already popped version you’ll find in a huge bag at the supermarket.
Also note that if you use salted butter, as I’ve stated countless times, you may want to reduce the salt called for in any given recipe.
With love and respect,
The Food Daddy