|Popcorn from the same bag:|
To the left, dry, popped in canola oil & a little butter;
to the right, soaked for two days and popped in canola oil & a little butter.
I'm not even sure what to call this popcorn--it's not exactly "half-popped" because the kernel has been turned completely inside out. It is much smaller and denser than regular popcorn, though, so maybe "al dente popcorn" would be a better name.
At any rate, this isn't even exactly what I was going for, but it's fabulous nonetheless. It's super crunchy and flavorful--probably containing too much salt for me, but sometimes that happens when I experiment. I'll try not to overdo it.
What I was really going for was more of a popcorn kernel that merely puffed out slightly, creating an almost styrofoam like texture--but in a good way. If you're not a maker of homemade popcorn, you may never have experienced the type of popcorn I'm talking about. And they seem to happen by accident. I get one every once in a while in a regular batch of popcorn. They almost look like "old maids," but they're just slighlty larger and definitely airier.
My friend Karla (of Swedish Cream Cookie fame) introduced me to Crimson Jewell popcorn, and the first jar she bought me popped up almost all like that, I had these small, crunchy popcorn kernels. They were delightful. When I bought a container on my own, they popped up normal--light and fluffy, like all other popcorn. Still one of my favorite popcorns, just not as delightful as the first jar. When I wrote to the company to see if I could purchase more kernels that did not exactly pop, I got a very short reply of "We don't sell a product like that." Oh well.
So, I went looking online, googled "how to make partially popped popcorn" and I came upon a website by Chris Moyer that explained how to do something like I was looking for. Maybe I'll still get there. He says to soak the popcorn kernels in salt water for four days, and mine have only been soaking for two. I'll try to pop more tomorrow to see what happens. (Guess I should save some of what I popped today for comparison.)
I read on another website to add vinegar to the water to soften the hull more, so I've done that too.
I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about moisture content of popcorn and heat and steam...I'm just going to tell you that I think I'm addicted to this stuff. It's the perfect popcorn, in my opinion. Super crunchy--just the way I like it. If you're a fan of super crunchy popcorn, and you're willing to wait a few days for your popcorn to soak, give this a try. You'll love it. Seriously.
Al Dente Popcorn (Crunchy Partially Popped Popcorn)
Ingredients (amounts are approximate):
- 2 cups popcorn kernels
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons salt
- 3-4 cups water
- canola oil
- 1/2 tablespoon butter (optional)
- additional salt to taste
2-4 days out, place popcorn kernels, vinegar, salt, and water in a plastic bowl with an airtight lid. Cover and shake. Shake a couple of times a day to redistribute the salt.
When you're ready to pop, preheat a medium heavy-bottom pot (with a matching lid) over medium high heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove about 1/2 cup of the soaked kernels from the bowl. Drain on a clean kitchen towel or a few paper towels. Dab to dry most of the way. If some moisture remains, that will be okay.
Add enough oil to the preheating pot to cover the bottom just barely. Add the mostly dried popcorn kernels to the oil in the pot and then add more oil to come up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the kernels. I suppose you could cover them completely with oil, but, well, you know that adds more fat, and now I'm going to tell you to add some butter to the pan. Add the half tablespoon butter, put the lid on the pot, and shake until you hear it sizzle and bubble. You can allow the popcorn to just start popping and only shake the pot occasionally. When popping as subsided to only one pop every 2 seconds or so, remove the lid and pour the partially popped popcorn into a serving bowl. Add more salt, if desired.
Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of partially popped popcorn