The History Of Kettle Corn And How To Make It


by Angel Dudley


There is a lot of folklore about who first began making kettle corn. It is very possible more than one may be true. At various times through history people often have the same basic ideas at about the same time in different areas. It could also be hard to discover the real truth as sometimes different groups of people will take credit for things and just pass on anecdotal stories to their grand children that they pass to their children.

One often told story holds that it was discovered around the eighteenth century in the Pennsylvania region by the immigrating Dutch settlers to the area. They generally made it for selling during local fairs and other festivals that people visited. They are often thought to be the first group to use sorghum or molasses for flavoring while it was cooking in their cast iron Dutch ovens.

Another story suggests that around mid 1800's cowboys or farmers would often celebrate the finish of their harvest and cattle round ups by preparing it. They would warm up their cast iron soup pots after coating the bottom with animal lard. After warming it up they would drop in the popcorn with what ever sweetener they had left over. Sugar was quite expensive in the old west so they generally used sorghum or molasses which was cheaper. As often stirred the popping corn with wooden spoons or their hands.

Probably the most interesting theory is that it was a German immigrant that moved to the US. In the early 1800's Hans Adair moved to Missouri and started a new life with his wife and two children. His brother had a local market and to make some extra money they would make popcorn, which was very inexpensive at the time, and coat it with various flavorings.

This simple recipe is quite easy requiring only a few key ingredients for it. A quarter cup lard or oil. Most purists will use animal fat to get a better taste. A quarter cup of a sweetener to mix with it. It also requires half a cup of popcorn.

It is typically best to use a thick bottomed pot that will spread any the heat evenly. Dump in your oil and just three kernels, wait for the oil to get hot. After the first 3 kernels pop, put in your sugar and other sweeteners you will use and stir before adding the popcorn.

Stir it all up and put the lid on. Shake it repeatedly as it pops than dump it in your bowl right after it gets done. Assorted popcorn has different textures and tastes, so you can try experimenting with different types to find the type that best suits you.

Even though most kettle corn was cooked in big iron pots in the distant past, some people like making it in their homes. The trick is shaking it often while it pops and removing it from the heat soon after it pops so your sweetener does not start to caramelize. You may use almost any type of sweetener you like including molasses, sugar, sorghum and honey.




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