Sunday, May 17, 2015

Eats: Maple Kettle Corn

Hello! I love popcorn, perhaps because it was one of the few snacks my mom approved of when I was a kid. We'd pop enough to fill a large grocery store paper bag(I come from a big family), butter and salt the heck out of it, and then gather around the TV on a Saturday night. Fun times!

I can't put all that butter and salt on popcorn with a good conscience now, though, so I seek out recipes that are at least a bit healthier. My latest find is Maple Kettle Corn, courtesy of Nancy Baggett's The All-American Dessert Book, a gift from my husband. (Baggett actually refers to the recipe as "Kitchen Maple Kettle Corn"). I'll present the recipe first, then discuss the adaptations I made to it.

Maple Kettle Corn (adapted from The All-American Dessert Book, Nancy Baggett, author)

3 tablespoons maple syrup (cheaper grade preferred)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra vegetable oil if popping corn on the stove
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup popcorn kernels, or 3-3.5 ounce bag microwave popcorn

(If using microwave popcorn, avoid the kinds with extra butter or special flavorings, and omit salt from recipe.)

Pop corn according to preferred method - stove or microwave. Place popped corn in bowl large enough to stir popcorn and maple syrup coating together later.

Make maple syrup coating: in a small saucepan, stir together maple syrup, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture boils and slightly thickens, 3-4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Pour quickly over the popcorn and stir vigorously until the coating is evenly distributed over it. If desired, add a little more salt to taste; stir well to incorporate. 

Yield: depends on type of popcorn used (I'll explain below in my notes)

Notes: Baggett's directions are different - she instructs one to pop corn in a pot, put the popped corn in a bowl, wipe out the pot the corn was popped in, make the coating in the pot, and stir the popcorn back into the cooked coating. Then it all goes back into the serving bowl. 

To me, it seemed easier to leave the popped corn in the serving bowl and then pour and mix the coating in the bowl. It saves a step too. And since it's such a small amount of coating, I felt it'd cook up better in a small saucepan rather than the large pan the corn would have been popped in. I'd worry that the coating would be more likely to burn in a large pan in the amount of time Baggett specifies it should be cooked.

A tip: lightly grease the serving bowl and saucepan (I use cooking oil spray) before use for easier clean-up later. 

And as for that yield - Baggett's recipe called for starting with 3/4 cup popcorn kernels, and the yield is listed as a "scant 1 1/2 quarts kettle corn". So I dutifully used that amount of popcorn kernels - and ended up with a huge amount of popcorn, at least twice that supposed 1 1/2 quarts! Needless to say, I had to double the amount of coating. Fortunately, our daughter had a friend over, so she helped us eat all that maple kettle corn. 

The brand of popcorn kernels I used is Trader Joe's Organic. Perhaps Baggett's popcorn kernels popped up smaller?

Baggett advises at the end of the recipe: "Homemade kettle corn is best when very fresh, as it loses its crispness after a few hours. But fortunately, Baggett's comment at the beginning of the recipe holds true: "It's tempting enough that nobody can stop eating until the bowl is empty". 

I have to agree with that comment, since we ate up that ultra-big bowl of it soon after it was made. I made a second batch tonight, using the single recipe of coating and 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels. It was fine:

The coating is light in color and amount, so it doesn't show up well in the photo, but you can certainly taste it: slightly salty, slightly sweet, just a tiny bit oily. Very easy and quick to make, and inexpensive, especially if popcorn kernels are used. I don't know how "healthy" this kettle corn really is, but the amount of sweeteners, vegetable oil and salt seems modest for the amount of popcorn made.

And it tastes WAY better than that greasy, salty stuff I used to eat as a kid!


  1. Genius! The #1 reason I keep putting off making kettle corn is because I don't ever have corn syrup, and every recipe I've seen has it, and I don't want to buy it just for popcorn. But maple syrup (or the fake kind, which is mostly corn syrup!) I usually have. I'll have to try this.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, thepathunfolding! I've been meaning to try this recipe with subbing honey for the maple syrup, just for a little different taste. It would seem to me that honey would "behave" roughly the same as maple syrup when cooked for coating, so you could think of that variation too.