Growing up, we’d watch the Disney movie on Sunday nights. If we were lucky, we got to make popcorn. I still remember Witch Mountain and the Apple Dumpling Gang. Popcorn and a movie, what could be better? Gourmet popcorn, a movie, and some homemade craft hard cider would be a good start. I still remember the popcorn makers we had. First there was the stove top pan. We upgraded to a skillet type popper with a dome plastic lid. This metal rod rotated the kernels around in oil until they popped and you magically turned the lid over to eat out of the bowl. Eventually, that model broke and we upgraded to an air popper. These use no oil and spun the kernels around in hot air until they popped. However, you had a butter tray at the top that melted the butter. You could pour it over your air popped popcorn and get a portion of it nice and soggy.
When I look back, I think our upgrades were really down grades. Like many things from my childhood, I now realize that we suffered the loss of flavor, and even health for convenience and aesthetics. It’s like apples. We went from over 14,000 named varieties to only a few stocked in grocery stores. We moved away from a stovetop popper to the less messy air popper. Have you ever tried to salt air popped popcorn? Yes, I know there are some organic and I’m sure healthy microwave popcorns. However, there is something fulfilling and better tasting when you make your own craft hard cider and your own stovetop popcorn.
Just like I think great hard cider isn’t made by adding a bunch of sugar and preservatives like sulfites and sorbates to it. (Note: I’ll drink those store bought hard ciders. I mean, I grew up eating fruit cocktail from a can. Yes, I still love those cherries.) Great buttered popcorn isn’t made by pouring butter on top of it after it’s popped. Sorry all you air popped popcorn lovers. The best buttered popcorn pops the corn in the butter so it coats it as it’s made. You can get some pretty fancy stovetop poppers, but I find my chicken fryer pan with its 3-4 inch tall sides and lid works really well.
For now, stovetop popcorn is still one of those dishes that is my responsibility to fix. That incident in Brazil, which we don’t discuss, may have something to do with it. For now, I’m still the popcorn guy. I must admit, it’s also the dish that has gone directly into the trash more times than any other I make. You see, I like to experiment. Just like with my hard ciders, I’ll try stuff just to see if it works. Some times it does work, some times it almost works, and some times it’s heavenly. Buttered popcorn can be heavenly but there is a trick to making really good buttered popcorn. That trick is called ghee.
Ghee? Ghee is basically clarified butter. You can clarify your own butter but ghee is a lot easier. Why do you need it? If you tried to make popcorn with butter that wasn’t clarified, the milk solids would burn. Clarifying removes those milk solids and makes the butter or ghee act more like olive oil or canola oil. You can reach the temperatures you need to pop the corn without burning.
Salt & Pepper Buttered Popcorn
Servings: 8-10 Cups
- 1/3 cup organic popcorn (Normal ratio is about 1:30 of unpopped to popped)
- 5 tablespoons organic ghee
- Salt and pepper – fresh ground preferred
Place ghee in stovetop popcorn maker or high-walled pan with handle and lid with 10 cups of volume.
Add 3 popcorn kernels to pan and place on medium-high heat with lid attached.
Agitate pan to melt and heat the ghee and coat the kernels.
Once all three kernels pop, add all the popcorn to the pan and cover again. Agitate but keep the pan near the heat.
This is where a pan with a handle is key. You want to keep agitating the pan while the corn pops. You also may need to watch the lid. Your lid might be lifted up if your pan volume is too small.
Once popcorn stops popping, remove from heat and pour about half in a bowl. Salt and pepper this portion to taste. Mix it to distribute the salt and pepper. Then add the other half and again, salt and pepper to taste. Mix this again. Serve in bowls.
Cider Lite Hard Cider
Salt & Pepper Buttered Popcorn is an awesome pairing option. It has salt, fat, crunchy texture, and a little earthy spice. These are great palate qualities to pair with hard cider. For this pairing, I used my Cider Lite. You can find the recipe by clicking here. This is a hopped cider with both bitters and citrus aromas. It also has a medium level of carbonation, which is also a great attribute that contributes to this pairing.
If you aren’t a fan of hops, there are other hard ciders that would pair well with this popcorn. I would recommend Japanese Sunrise or Silver Sun, which don’t have adjuncts. If you like adjuncts, the Garden Cider would be a great option with its, plum and ginger adjuncts. Here are quick links to the hard cider recipe for each of these.
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