Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best Homemade Popcorn, Milwaukee Style

So, I know what you may be thinking, or at least I was. A post on popcorn? Really? After much encouragement from a fellow popcorn aficionado, I succumbed to sharing my technique on homemade popcorn, which I've 'perfected' since moving to Milwaukee over 12 years ago. I have learned much about what makes the best bowl, and a lot of it was gleaned from various bars and movie theaters around town. There are a couple of common threads running through them all, one of which is the use of coconut oil - it is a must here. It doesn't have as high of a smoke point as it claims, yet it isn't necessary to get a ripping hot slick of oil in your pan to yield a great batch of popcorn. And plenty of popcorn salt is needed, and it should be added to the oil before you add a single kernel. This creates a perfectly seasoned batch, that sticks perfectly to each popped kernel.
The choice between white or yellow corn is entirely up to you. I prefer yellow, since I feel it has more flavor. Another option (though its not one in our home) is whether or not to add brewer's yeast. You'll find large shakers of the stuff at several theaters around town here, and if you find yourself wondering if you should shake some on your bag, do. You won't be disappointed. You may be a bit disheveled when you rise from your seat and see you're covered with a fine yellow powder (not dissimilar in appearance to pollen) all over your chest and lap. But its okay. At least around here, everyone knows why, and won't judge. Yes, brewer's yeast is very nutritious, packed with tons of B vitamins, but that isn't why you should try it. It gives a savory, slightly cheesy flavor to your popcorn that is not to be missed. It may not be for everyone, though the only person I know who has tried it and wasn't completely won over is my mother, and I think it's pretty much her only character flaw. I still adore her though. Happy Birthday, Mom!


1/3 cup yellow popcorn kernels; I prefer
   Orville Redenbacher's

heaping 2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp popcorn salt - yes, you should go
   out and get popcorn salt. Table salt
   isn't fine enough. You may need more to taste if 
   you're adding yeast.

1 - 2 Tbsp mini flake nutritional yeast
   (brewer's yeast), or to taste

Place a medium size pot with lid over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and let it melt almost completely before adding the salt. Pour in the popcorn and jiggle pan to get an even layer of kernels. Do not cover the pan. Shake the pan every 20 seconds or so til you get a couple of popped kernels. Once this occurs, cover the pan with the lid but keep your hand on top to keep the lid ajar so the steam can escape. This ensures super crisp popcorn. Shake the pan continuously as it pops to encourage unpopped kernels to fall to the bottom, and hopefully pop. Keep shaking the pan over the heat, and as soon as the popping seems not as aggressive, turn the heat off. Continue shaking the pan over the hot burner till all popping has subsided and remove from heat. 

Empty the popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle over 1/4 of the yeast you plan on using and give it a gentle toss with your hands. What ever you do, don't toss the whole bowl of popcorn by flipping it around in the bowl, like you would flip a pancake in a pan without a spatula. This will only shake all the yeast to the bottom, and it won't be on your popcorn. I like to use a spritz of canola oil spray between each addition of yeast to make it stick a little better. Continue til all the yeast is used, tasting between each addition. Stop early if you like it on the lighter side, or keep going if you like it well coated with yeast, like myself. Serve immediately. Don't put the pot in the sink right away, because if you have more than 2 people enjoying it, you're probably going to have to make another batch.

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