Many things remind me of my memorable childhood days.
One of those is popcorn—kettle corn, to be exact.
It just takes me back to the days when I would go with my parents to the local fiesta fair—try the carnival rides (particularly the carousel and Ferris wheel), challenge and win the prizes from the different game stalls, and of course, digging in the carnival treats, mainly the county fair kettle corn.
All it takes is just the mere aroma and light pops of those kernels bursting into culinary existence to take me back to those moments.
And because of my fondness for reminiscing and reliving my childhood, I often find myself craving the classic county fair kettle corn experience, with its perfect balance of sweetness and just a tinge of salt all encapsulated in one bite-sized crunch.
Thankfully, I have found a simple recipe to at least emulate the childhood experience I had with eating kettle corn.
Curious about my kettle corn recipe? Well, let me teach you!
What is Kettle Corn?
If you wonder why I have been discussing kettle corn and not popcorn, kettle corn is a specific variety of popcorn typically mixed or seasoned with a drizzle of oil, refined sugar, and salt.
In its popped state, Kettle corn is mushroom-shaped compared to your usual popcorn.
And if you are also wondering why kettle corn is called “kettle corn,” it’s because it got its name from the traditional cast iron kettles on top of stoves, where it was usually cooked or made back when it was just discovered.
What distinguishes kettle corn from the rest of the popcorn variants is its delicate balance of flavors—the sweetness and saltiness—in each bite.
The drizzle of sugar envelops the popping kernels as we stir them, giving its defined caramelly coating. At the same time, it is topped off with a sprinkle of salt to even out the flavors.
How to Make Kettle Corn on the Stove?
As kettle corn was first discovered when its inventors—be it through the intervention of a culinary deity or with just luck—accidentally threw a handful of corn kernels inside a sizeable cast-iron kettle atop of a stove, so should you make yours the same way too!
But not with the over-the-top cast iron kettles, just a stockpot above a stovetop.
So, how do you make homemade kettle corn on the stove?
Ingredients for Kettle Corn:
- Three tablespoons of canola/vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup of popcorn kernels
- Three tablespoons of granulated sugar (particularly refined or brown sugar)
How to Make Kettle Corn:
- Heat a stockpot on a stovetop and set the heat to medium.
- Grease the stockpot with your oil of choice.
- While the oil is slowly heating up, prepare the kernels. You can do this by sprinkling the corn kernels with the type of sugar you choose. Make sure to coat them evenly.
- See if the oil is smoking before you pour out the popcorn kernels. If so, slowly pour the sugar-coated kettle corn kernels.
- Upon pouring all the contents, immediately and continuously stir the kettle corn kernels while scraping the sugar on the stockpot. We recommend doing this for 10 seconds (before you get attacked by a batch of exploding popcorn).
- Cover the stockpot.
- Drape a dish towel over the lid and the pot’s handles, and slowly shake the stockpot and its contents. Shake the pot up and down every 20 seconds so that the kernels and sugar won’t get burnt. This also makes the sugar evenly distribute among the popping kernels.
- Continue shaking from time to time until you hear the popping sounds fading and eventually stopping.
- Pour the popcorn out of the stockpot into a separate bowl.
- Sprinkle the kettle corn with a drizzle of kosher salt and serve.
How to Make Kettle Corn in the Microwave?
If you don’t have the luxury of time to prepare all of the necessary tools and ingredients to make your homemade kettle corn, then you could always trust your microwave to do all the quick cooking.
Just combine the butter, oil, salt, and sugar in your microwave-safe bowl. Turn on the microwave and set the timer to 20-30 seconds, just enough until the butter melts.
Remove the bowl from the microwave, add the kettle corn kernels, and stir them with the mixture until they are entirely slathered with the sweet coating. Make sure to spread the kernels evenly in the bowl.
Cover the container with its lid and turn on the microwave for 3-4 minutes with the power set to high. Make sure to look for any signs (or scent) that your popcorn and the sugar coating are burning.
Take the bowl out once all the popping has stopped.
How to Make Kettle Corn Seasoning?
Since you’re making homemade kettle corn, why not try making its seasoning?
For a cinnamon-flavored seasoning, all you need is to combine eight tablespoons of brown sugar, four tablespoons of ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl.
Once done, you could sprinkle it on your fresh batch of kettle corn.
You could also make a three-cheese-flavored seasoning. Just toss your kettle corn in a mixing bowl containing 2 cups of shredded cheddar, 1 cup of grated parmesan, and ½ cup of grated pecorino.
There are various flavors to make and experiment with—all you have to do is try.
How long does kettle corn last?
The seasoning of kettle corn usually lasts for several months if stored in an airtight container.
Meanwhile, the quality of your cooked kettle corn diminishes over time. So, it pays to consume it immediately. At best, seasoned kettle corn usually lasts for only 1-2 days.
Writing this piece about homemade kettle corn made me hungry for it. Well, I’m off cooking!
What are you waiting for? Start popping those kettle corn kernels!