One of the foods I always associate with fall — along with hot cider and caramel apples — is kettle corn, which shows up at a lot of county fairs and harvest festivals.
I’m sharing the recipe now because I’m thinking of it, but you can make kettle corn at any time of year, and it’s way easier than you’d think. Cheap, too; I used to make it for our scholar-bowl team at Webster, and a batch big enough to feed two teams and all their alternates took about 50 cents’ worth of popcorn and sugar. The kids loved it and were disappointed if I let a game slip by without making it.
The big trick with kettle corn is having all your equipment ready so you can move fast once the oil heats up.
Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
About 1/3 c. popcorn (use Orville Redenbacher, not the cheap stuff)
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8″ deep
Step 1: Pre-measure the popcorn and sugar and set them next to the stove, along with the spoon and the big bowl.
Step 2: Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, because you’ll probably screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. It gets easier with practice.
Step 3: Put on the oven mitts. No matter how well your lid fits, oil and steam can escape around the edges and scald you.
Step 4: Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, throw in three kernels of popcorn, and heat on high until they all pop.
Step 5: Dump in popcorn and sugar — in that order — stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds, holding the lid onto the pan as tightly as possible.
Step 6: Once corn pops (about five minutes or less), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.
If you let it cool down completely and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.
P.S.: The little strings on the popcorn in the picture aren’t hair. They’re strands of melted sugar. The sugar melts into the oil, coats the popcorn, and basically turns into candy as it cools.