What’s a movie without popcorn? They really do go together, don’t they? Ah, but that’s not the only time to enjoy popcorn. January 19th is National Popcorn Day, so let’s study a bit of history about popcorn and share a couple of yummy recipes for perhaps a new taste treat or a reminder of treats from childhood.
- Popcorn has been around a long, long time. The oldest popcorn was discovered in New Mexico in 1948 in a dry cave known as “Bat Cave.” The discovery included some heads of corn and a few popped kernels.
- Native Americans enjoyed popcorn and it was a part of their culture that colonists adopted.
- Colonists used popcorn as a simple snack, ate it with milk and sugar as a breakfast cereal, or cooked it with molasses similar to today’s kettle corn.
- During the 1800s, popcorn was one of the most popular snacks available at home, in general stores, at carnivals, and concession stands. It was first sold in 1820 under the names Pearl or Nonpareil.
- In 1848, “popcorn” was added to the dictionary.
- Popcorn street vendors stationed their mobile carts at local movie theaters before theater owners realized that in-house concessions were a profit-making option.
- During the late 1890s, another well-known food became a favorite of kids everywhere as an outgrowth from popcorn. “Cracker Jack” was a mixture of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts with an added plus of a toy inside.
- During the Great Depression, popcorn remained an affordable snack for most of the population.
- With so much rationing during World War II, popcorn continued to gain popularity.
- In 1951, “Jiffy Pop” was introduced as an easy way to cook popcorn. Remember those pie-tin containers with the oil and popcorn all ready to pop—as the popcorn popped, the aluminum wrapping expanded? All you had to do was tear open the foil and dig in.
- Microwave popcorn was invented in 1981.
- According to statistics, Americans consume approximately 17 billion quarts per year. Evidently, we still love popcorn!
While microwave popcorn is certainly convenient, the stovetop method (a little oil and some kernels in a covered pot) is still the most flavorful, in my opinion.
Did you know you can also make your own microwave popcorn and avoid all those additives?
Do It Yourself Microwave Popcorn: In a plain brown paper bag, pour in ¼ to ½ cup of popcorn kernels and fold the bag top over three times. Heat in microwave. In two to four minutes (listen for a slowing down of pops to a few seconds), you have yourself a bag of popcorn without additives or oils.
Ever make popcorn balls? Enjoy this recipe from The Popcorn Board.
Traditional Popcorn Balls
- 8 cups cooked popcorn
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup corn syrup (light or dark, your choice)
- ⅓ cup water
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Keep the popcorn warm in the oven at 200°F while preparing the mixture.
- In a 2-quart pan, stir in all ingredients, except the vanilla, and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Without more stirring, let the mixture cook until candy thermometer reads 270°F.
- Remove from heat and add the vanilla, stirring just enough to mix.
- Slowly pour over the popcorn, ensuring that all kernels are coated.
- Cool just enough to handle and shape into balls. Butter hands for ease of handling.
- Cool on foil or on buttered wax paper.
How about a Popcorn Cake?
- 3 quarts of cooked popcorn
- ¾ cup butter
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 16-oz. bag of miniature marshmallows
- 1 8-oz. bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1 16-oz. bag of plain M&M’s
Butter a Bundt cake pan or a sheet cake pan. Note: If using the Bundt pan, you’ll need to turn out the cake immediately once it’s shaped; however, the sheet cake version can remain in the pan for cutting.
- Melt butter, oil, and marshmallows in large saucepan.
- Pour cooked popcorn into large bowl or roaster pan.
- Add nuts and M&M’s and melted mixture.
- Mix quickly and press into Bundt or sheet cake pan.
- Let set overnight before slicing.
Don’t forget to enjoy some popcorn on the 19th! Happy Popcorn Day, Y’all!!