Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Popcorn is a many-splendored thing

Jerry Stratton, September 14, 2022

Buttered popcorn

Is there any more perfect snack than popcorn? Quickly popped on the stove, drenched in melted butter (six tablespoons per half cup of unpopped), and salted to taste, popcorn is easy to make and very, very easy to eat.

I have never understood the appeal of microwave popcorn at home. It’s easier to pop corn on the stovetop than to pop it in a microwave. On the stove, you pop it until it stops popping. In the microwave, you pop it and walk away, come back and realize it was burnt, throw it out, and put in another one realizing that using the microwave doesn’t mean not staying with it until it’s ready.

In a hotel room, microwave popcorn has its place. Most hotel rooms have microwaves, but do not have stovetops.

There are many, many ways to spice popcorn up besides—or in addition to—butter and salt. Among my favorites is to add curry powder. Probably any curry powder will do, but homemade makes it easy to adjust the spices perfectly for whatever use you have—including putting it on popcorn along with the salt and butter.

Mushroom curry

Curry Powder

Servings: 24
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp fenugreek
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

Steps

  1. Process spices to a powder in a spice or coffee grinder.

You can add this to popcorn microwaved in your hotel room, too. This is by far the way I eat popcorn most—even more than butter and salt, which is probably second.

Probably second, because I also have a sweet tooth. And popcorn isn’t just the perfect snack, it’s also the perfect candy.

Macadamia nut caramel corn

Caramel Corn

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
The Southern Living Cookies and Candy Cookbook

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-½ cup Log Cabin syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup butter

Steps

  1. Pop corn in oil.
  2. Pour into a greased, heat-resistant bowl.
  3. Mix in pecans, cranberries, and salt.
  4. Keep warm in a 300° oven.
  5. Combine the syrup, sugar, water, and butter in a two-quart saucepan.
  6. Stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil.
  7. Stir occasionally until it reaches 280°.
  8. Pour the syrup gradually over the popcorn mix.
  9. Stir quickly until evenly coated.
  10. Grease hands and spread corn onto a greased backing sheet to cool.
  11. Break into clusters when cool.

I add pecans to my caramel corn most often, but try it with peanuts, with macadamia nuts, or with walnuts. Or with no nuts at all, just popcorn and caramel. It’s all great. I got that particular recipe from the Southern Living Cookies and Candies book. You don’t need to use Log Cabin syrup. Standard old corn syrup will do.

There are many different ways to eat popcorn. Popcorn isn’t just a snack. Popcorn isn’t just a candy. Popcorn is also the perfect breakfast.

Popcorn granola

Popcorn Granola

Servings: 16
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Larry Kusche
Popcorn (Internet Archive)
Review: Popcorn (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup medium-ground popped corn
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Steps

  1. Mix the peanut butter, oil, water, vanilla, honey, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a deep baking pan, mix together the oats, wheat germ, ground popcorn, sesame, and coconut.
  3. Stir in the peanut butter mix to coat.
  4. Bake at 300° for 40-45 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and add cranberries.
  6. Cool and store.

Whenever I make a new spice mix, I eventually try it on popcorn. If it’s powdered and it tastes good, chances are it will taste good on buttered popcorn. I learned this from Larry Kusche. Got some powdered bouillon in your pantry? Beef and chicken bouillon is amazing on popcorn. After I read that, and tried that, and learned how good it was, I tried a lot of powdered mixes on popcorn. Those cracker mixes are great on popcorn. Pepper is great on popcorn. So are most savory spices and spice mixes from the pantry.

And yet I was still a novice. I searched my pantry for powdered wonders to add to my popcorn. But I never looked in my refrigerator. From Grace Parisi and the 2014 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook I learned that powdered buttermilk is also great on popcorn. Ranch-dusted popcorn is a very different take on savory popcorn, and well worth trying. If you like ranch-flavored snacks, at least.

Ranch-dusted popcorn

Ranch Popcorn

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Grace Parisi
Review: Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2014 (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp buttermilk powder
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ tbsp onion powder
  • ½ tbsp coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup popcorn
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 6 tbsp melted butter

Steps

  1. Add the buttermilk powder, yeast, onion powder, salt, and pepper to a spice or coffee grinder.
  2. Process to a fine powder.
  3. Pop the corn in the oil.
  4. Mix the butter in the popcorn.
  5. Toss the ranch powder in the popcorn.

I had thought of adding nutritional yeast to popcorn, but decided against it. This ranch mix, however, makes nutritional yeast not just palatable but perfect for popcorn.

What powders remain? I haven’t tried malted milk powder on my popcorn yet, but I’ll bet it’s good.

And, finally… if you enjoy caramel corn, and you enjoy chocolate, the obvious choice is to mix chocolate chips into your caramel corn. But why not make chocolate coated caramel corn? This recipe is from Mrs. Elise Oar, by way of the 1977 Artist in the Kitchen. It’s a Saint Louis cookbook to benefit the St. Louis Art Museum. I’ve added cocoa powder to strengthen the chocolate flavor, but if you leave it out you have the original recipe.

Chocolate popcorn

Chocolate Corn

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Mrs. Elise Oar
Review: The Artist in the Kitchen (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Steps

  1. Pop the corn in the oil.
  2. Mix in the pecans and salt and set aside.
  3. Mix the sugar, chocolate, and milk in a saucepan.
  4. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the chocolate melts.
  5. Boil to 235°.
  6. Mix in the butter and remove from heat.
  7. Mix in the vanilla.
  8. Mix with the popcorn.

Because it’s only cooked to soft-crack stage, it’s just a little fudgy, too.

Many of these popcorns are, while not messy, not exactly clean. They will color your fingers, whether it be the orangish of curry powder or the dark brown of chocolate. It’s all well worth it. Wear your popcorn stains as a badge of honor.

If you yearn for more ideas for popcorn, one great resource is Larry Kusche’s Popcorn cookbook. That’s where I got the recipe for popcorn granola and for putting beef and chicken bouillon on popcorn. You can check it out from the Internet Archive, and copies are available at very reasonable prices at any of the various online used bookstores.

In response to Vintage Cookbooks and Recipes: I have a couple of vintage cookbooks queued up to go online.

  1. <- Baker’s Three
  2. Homemade granola ->