Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Make your own: Caramel popcorn and other awesome corn!

After yesterday's popcorn post I decided there needed to be some elaboration on the caramel, cheese, and spiced corn varieties.
These are fantastic and need to be tried if you love cheap snacks and are also awesome to serve to guests.
Note: 1/2 cup of kernels makes about 10 cups of popped corn and is the amount of popcorn used in these recipes
I also use margarine when I make these

Cheese corn is really really easy
One super simple way is to sprinkle the buttered popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese or powdered cheese (you can get this in the bulk foods section or take a packet out of a box of KD) toss to coat and you're ready to eat it.

If you want a real cheesy popcorn you can melt one cup the kind of cheese you like, cheddar and mozzarella are favorites in my house, with 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine. Stir constantly until it is melted . The popcorn will have to be in a really large bowl for this or you can do it in batches if you have a lot. I like to pour some of the cheese sauce on the side of the bowl and not right on the cheese (otherwise I find there is a chance to get a handful of soggy popcorn but this is not really a big deal) and toss and stir the popped corn to coat, it will harden as it cools down so toss vigorously and quickly.

Caramel popcorn can be made with lots of different ingredients but the idea is the same. This method uses a syrup which can be maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, pancake syrup etc. the different syrup you use will give you a different taste but it's all good so just use what you have. Melt 1/2 cup of butter or margarine with 1/2 cup syrup, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss with the popped corn and anything else you want to add like nuts, M&Ms chocolate chips or just leave it like it is.  bake on a greased baking pan or casserole dish at 300 degrees (Parchment paper or foil underneath keep it from sticking too) for 15-20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes. It's done when it starts to look toasty. 
Let it cool completely.

There are so many ways to season or spice popcorn that it is impossible to list them all here but here are a few ways.  Feel free to substitute ingredients like sea salt for ordinary salt or anything else you have on hand that you might like. It's about personal taste and what you have in your pantry.
Since everyone like a different amount of flavour on their popcorn I think it's a good idea to put one tablespoon of each spice in a small bowl, mix, and then sprinkle the seasonings on the buttered  popcorn a little at a time. When you find a flavour you like extra can be made and stored in a container or spice shaker so it does not have to be remixed every time. 

Indian - Ground cumin, curry powder, fine salt
Asian - Wasabi powder, sugar, sea salt
Tex-Mex - Chili powder, brown sugar
Italian - dried oregano, dried basil, grated Parmesan cheese
Curry salt - Curry powder, salt
Black pepper and parm - Ground pepper, grated parmesan cheese
Chili cheese - Chili powder, grated parmesan cheese
Garlic - Garlic powder or garlic salt
BBQ - (this one makes a lot and is great on steak too!) salt, sugar, chili powder, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, cumin, oregano
Spicy - Red pepper flakes, chili powder
Hot mustard - mustard powder, thyme, ground black pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (it's hot!)

Bottled seasoning mix can also be purchased at the grocery store or specialty stores (Dollar stores sell them too). It doesn't need to be a popcorn seasoning mix to be good on popcorn. I like mixes such as,
Chicken seasoning
Steak seasoning
Italian spice mix
jerk seasoning
pizza seasoning etc

Candy is my fathers favorite topping for buttered popcorn. Top with your favorite kind of candy bar (crushed), M&Ms or smarties, chocolate covered nuts, Reece's pieces, etc

Bacon is a great topping for popcorn. place 8 slices of bacon (more if you want it really baconey) on a rack in a backing pan and bake at 400 until crisp, about 12 minutes. Coarsely chop and toss with popcorn. This is great with a little brown sugar sprinkled on the bacon before baking and a spice combination of your choice or cheese powder tossed in the popcorn too. use the bacon drippings instead of melted butter topping or in place of the oil when cooking for a real baconey taste.

There are much more recipes all over the Internet. Popcorn.org has a lot of recipes and nutritional information about popcorn if you want to do more research.

Use your imagination and experiment! the possibilities are endless.

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