Thursday, January 19, 2017
It’s hard to think of a more purely American food than popcorn. Whether it’s salted and buttered at a movie theatre, kettle corn at a state fair, or a caramel popcorn ball at holiday time, we devour the stuff.
But where did the concept of popped corn come from?
Corn or Maize is strictly a new world crop. It didn't exist in Europe, Africa, or the Far East.
"Smithers…I want some of this 'Popped Corn' everyone is talking about."
Well, blame the Mexicans. Maize is an indigenous crop that fueled all of the Native American cultures, Mayan, Aztec, Olmec, and Incan. This was a staple crop both for trade and for sustenance, including snacking. Which brings up popped corn. Archeologists have even found traces of popcorn in 1,000-year-old Peruvian tombs. Clearly, the ancients knew what they were doing despite the lack of a wheel.
Image : Eating At Joe's
Cut to, the first Thanksgiving feast, in Plymouth Colony in 1621. According to myth, Squanto himself taught the Pilgrims to raise and harvest corn, and pop the kernels for a delicious snack. Unfortunately, this story contains more hot air than a large bag of Jiffy Pop. While the early settlers at Plymouth did indeed grow corn, it was of the Northern Flint variety, with delicate kernels that are unsuitable for popping; roasting or boiling or animal feed were the best options for this product.
So how did popped corn come about? Let's go back to the Native Americans, they know so much. French explorers wrote of Iroquois popping tough corn kernels in pottery jars filled with heated sand. The Iroquois nation spread throughout the Great Lakes region, so it is likely that settlers to upstate New York, Vermont and Quebec were the earliest European-American popcorn makers. By the mid 1800's, popcorn was beloved by families as a late-night snack in front of the fire, or at picnics and sociables. But mass consumption of the treat didn’t take off until the 1890's, after a Chicago entrepreneur named Charles Cretors built the first popcorn-popping machine.
Cretors was a candy-store owner who purchased a commercially made peanut roaster so he could offer freshly roasted nuts at his shop. But he was unhappy with the quality of the machine, and began tinkering with it. A few years later, Cretors had designed entirely new machines, powered by steam, for both nut roasting and popcorn popping. The steam ensured all kernels would be heated evenly, for the maximum number of popped kernels, and it also enabled users to pop the corn directly in the desired seasonings. By 1900, Cretors introduced a horse-drawn popcorn wagon, and the era of the popcorn eaters began.
Image : BSA
These days, the majority of Americans get their popcorn from a microwave, not a horse and buggy. The first patent for a microwave popcorn bag was issued to General Mills in 1981, and home popcorn consumption increased by tens of thousands of pounds in the years following. Today, Americans eat about a million pounds worth of (unpopped) popcorn a year.
"I like My Popcorn Bags!"
Image : Jill
Here's a favorite :
Garlic Cheddar Popcorn Balls
Image courtesy : Kirbie's Cravings
Two (2) Large Glass Mixing Bowls
A Microwave that will hold one of the bowls
A sharp Knife or Food Processor
Parchment or Wax Paper
Parchment or Wax Paper
Your Manicured Hands
- 50 cloves fresh Garlic (Yes, you read that right)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 4 cups (900g.) shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 5 quarts (20 cups) Popped Corn
Peel the Garlic and mince using a sharp knife or a few pulses of a food processor along with the Kosher Salt. Try not to create a pureé. This prevents sticking and absorbs all of the yummy Garlic juices.
Combine the minced Garlic/Salt mixture in a large mixing bowl with the shredded Cheddar Cheese.
In another large glass or plastic bowl, make alternate layers of Popped Corn and garlic-Cheese mixture, coating the Popped Corn as evenly as possible, especially at the edges of the bowl.
When layered, place the bowl into the Microwave and cook for one (1) minute on High. Shake the bowl gently; rotate the bowl 180 degrees and cook for one (1) more minute. Do not overcook.
Immediately turn the gooey mixture out onto cookie sheet, and quickly shape into plum-size balls.
Place the balls onto sheets of Parchment or Wax Paper to set.
If the popcorn mixture gets too hard to mold, just zap it in the Microwave for a few seconds to keep it pliable.
Makes about 4 dozen popcorn balls, but that's up to you.
Recipe adapted by Wait At The Bar
Image Courtesy : Noble Popcorn
And, in case you're wondering, the world's largest popcorn ball was unveiled in Sac City, Iowa in 2009. It contained 900 pounds (408 kg.) of popcorn, 2,700 pounds (1225 kg) of sugar and 1,400 pounds (635 kg.) of Dry syrup mixed with water. It held the record until later that year when a group at the Indiana State Fair, built a 6,510 pound (2953 kg.) popcorn ball, beating Sac County’s record by 1,510 pounds (685 kg.), but the Indian ball was pulled apart to feed livestock at the end of the festivities. Sac City’s ball remains the largest popcorn ball still intact.
© L. M. Sorré
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Nice and toasty on those cold winter nights. But what exactly is it??
Well, Kenneth Roberts, author of the 1937 bestselling historical novel Northwest Passage, says “After a man’s had two—three drinks of hot buttered rum, he don’t shoot a catamount. All he’s got to do is walk up to him and kiss him just once, then put him in his bag, all limp.”
"Dang! It's cold." - Kenny Roberts, Hell's Kitchen, NYC c. 1911
That notwithstanding, in the United States, hot buttered rum’s history dates back to the colonial days. It was in the 1650's when the island of Jamaica began exporting molasses, a byproduct of sugar cane production, to Colonial America. Using the molasses, the New England Colonies began opening distilleries where they began to add distilled rum to hot beverages such as toddies and nogs, creating such beverages as hot buttered rum, eggnog, and many others.
"Hmmmm. Not enough Rum."
Traditionally, a hot buttered rum is made by blending a buttered rum batter with dark rum. Dark rum is rum which has been barrel-aged for a long length of time to retain a deeper, molasses flavor. Those that prefer a milder or a spicier taste may choose the option of using light rum or spiced rum mixed with the batter.
So, how do we do this in our modern over-technological age??
Well, the good folks over at CDKitchen have us all covered…
Slow Cooker Colonial Hot Buttered Rum
Photo : CDKitchen
Yes, you read that right. Hot Buttered Rum in a Crock Pot!
What better after a crumby day at the office and having to shovel out your car twice that day??
Here it is :
Your favorite Slow Cooker or Crock Pot
Some large Coffee Mugs
Spoons (you must have these somewhere)
- 2 cups (450g.) firmly packed Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup Sweet Butter (that means no salt, lunkhead)
- 1 pinch Kosher Salt
- 3 whole Cinnamon Sticks
- 6 whole Cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 2 cups (475ml.) of Dark Rum (your hangover favorite)
- 2 quarts (1.9 l.) Hot Water
- Heavy Cream, whipped, for topping
- Additional Ground Nutmeg, for topping
Combine the Brown Sugar, Butter, Salt, Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, and Nutmeg in the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker. Add the Hot Water. Stir well.
Cover the pot and cook on LOW for five (5) hours. (Again, you read that right.)
After five (5) hours, add the Dark Rum; stirring to blend.
Ladle from Crock Pot in warm Coffee Mugs with a scoop of Whipped Cream and a dusting of Nutmeg.
Slurp and enjoy!
Recipe courtesy CDKitchen
Adapted and Copyright by L.M. Sorré