My mom taught me how to make popcorn her way when I was pretty young, in a pot that she had purchased in college and never strayed from in however many years (20?). I remember fighting with my brother over who got to shake the pot mid-pop. I'd like to say I always won, but we probably alternated. Eventually we took over full popping duties, which was a huge deal in our house. I can't tell you how many times I would bring my dad popcorn and he'd look skeptically at the bowl and ask "who made it?".
I told you, popcorn is serious business.
A while after I had earned popcorn privileges, I managed to break the sacred popcorn pot. I went to shake the kernels around, and one of the handles went flying off the pot. I may have cried.
The positive spin on this? We got a new popcorn pot with a clear lid! (Did I mention the old one was all metal? Lots of guesswork. Very tricky stuff). It's way more fun making popcorn when you can watch the kernels pop, pop, pop until they reach the lid and you realize that once again, you got a little over-zealous pouring kernels in to the pot and you're going to need another set of hands so you can carefully pour out half the popcorn without any rogue pieces attacking you so you can continue popping without the fluffy kernels popping lid right off. I'd like to seriously stress the whole "extra hands" bit. I once tried to do this step myself and the lid ended up sliding out of my hands onto the floor, almost landing on my bare feet, and completely shattering. Thank goodness for tempered glass.
There are plenty of ways to season popcorn, but the tried-and-true choice is simply butter and salt. My mom will melt butter until just melted, but my brother and I brown the butter a bit so it has that awesomely rich and nutty flavor.
Now that I've successfully talked about a non-recipe for longer than I would give most real recipes, I should probably end the suspense and just get on with it.
Stove-top Popcorn (3 tablespoons of kernels will give you about 3-5 cups popcorn, but I
1 tablespoon canola oil
1-2 tablespoons butter
In a large double-handled saucepan (pick one with a lid!), heat the oil on medium with a few kernels dropped in. When you start to see tiny bubbles forming around the kernels, dump the rest of the kernels into the pot. If you just barely cover the bottom of the pot, you should get a full pot of popcorn (I've found this to be true regardless of the pot size). Swirl the kernels around to coat in oil, then leave them alone. After a few minutes you should hear the kernels begin to pop. Once they really get going, give the pot a good shake (hold onto the handles and lid very tightly). You want everything to mix around so nothing burns. Towards the end, use the microwave popcorn rule - the popcorn is done once you can count three seconds between pops. Once you get to this point, turn the burner off and let it sit for a minute or two, to allow for any strays (so they don't attack you when you open the pot). Dump popcorn into a bowl and set aside.
If you're topping with butter, slice some into the pot after dumping out the popcorn. Let it melt and then drizzle over the popcorn. We usually pour a little popcorn back into the pot and swirl it around to get up any extra butter. Salt after buttering to help the salt stick! And make sure you mix the popcorn (I usually use the butter knife).
If you're feeling weird, drop some popcorn into tuna salad. I dare you. It's fantastic.
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