The last time I made a trip to Cabelas there was a guy in a trailer with a giant black cast iron kettle cooking popcorn. It put a kind of salty sweet toasty smell in the air that immediately made your mouth start to water. They were charging an unreal amount of money for a bag of the stuff and being the big guy I am I did not need to eat anything so I convinced myself it was one of those country fair type foods that I just did not need. When I left the store I had to walk by it again and smell that wonderful smell but I made it to the truck without buying any of the stuff.
A few months later my wife and I were at a well know Central Texas outdoor market and I again smelled that wonderful salty sweet caramel aroma on the wind. As we strolled down the row of booths I saw where the smell was coming from. An older couple was tending this behemoth black kettle and the older gentleman was stirring it with a paddle big enough to use for my kayaks. They had not only the large bags of this stuff for sale but much smaller bags priced at only $1.00. I had to taste that stuff and see if it tasted anywhere as good as it smelled. I figured it would be like that first taste of coffee when you are kid. You know what I mean, remember how good mom’s coffee smelled and how that first taste of coffee was so bad you wanted to spit it out. Well I was wrong, that caramel tasting popcorn was some of the best stuff I ever put in my mouth. It just kind of melted in your mouth as it was still warm, it tasted of things like caramels, popcorn and pralines all rolled into one bite.
I figured I was doomed to only run across this stuff once a year or less and would be on a quest for people that had that giant black iron kettle to cook the stuff. Several months later I came up with a reason to make the long trip south to Cabelas for some item I just had to have. As I got closer to Buda I could almost smell and taste the Kettle Korn. I was going to get a big bag of the stuff no matter how much they charged for it. As I parked the truck and headed for the front door of Cabelas panic started to set in, I could not smell the distinct aroma on the wind. Maybe I was upwind or they had just stopped cooking for a little while. Now closer I could not find the trailer and guy with the big black kettle anywhere. I went in the front door and grabbed an employee and inquired about the Kettle Korn vendor and could not believe the news, he no longer comes there to sell his product. I walked around the store not remembering what I had come to get or maybe they were out of it. I made the drive back to Round Rock without any Kettle popcorn and wondering when I would again taste that wonderful popcorn.
Saved by the Web I found all sorts of recipes for Kettle Corn on the net. I wish I could tell you I came up with this recipe but I found out that it has been a basic staple of our country since the early 1800s. The Pennsylvania Dutch are credited with inventing it but you can now make it at home, in camp or whenever you desire. If you have never tasted Kettle popcorn give this recipe a try or if somewhere, sometime you smell this wonderful sweet salty caramel smell on the wind and you find the guy with the giant black cast iron kettle stop and buy some. Enjoy, Wild Ed
Homemade Kettle Korn
•1/3 cup Olive Oil
•2/3 cup Popcorn Kernels
•1/3 cup Sugar (If you use white sugar, it will taste like popcorn balls and if you use brown sugar, it will taste like caramel corn. I seem to prefer a 50/50 mix of brown and white sugar flavor)
•1/2 tsp. Salt or to taste, I use Kosher or Sea Salt
Put a large pot on the stove and turn the burner on to setting between medium and medium-high. Add the oil and four or five kernels of popcorn and cover with a lid. In a bowl mix together the remaining kernels, the sugar, and the salt. When the popcorn kernels start popping remove the lid and pour in the rest of the popcorn kernels, sugar and salt. Stir this to mix with oil, replace the lid and, using two hot pads, shake the pot vigorously. Shake every 15 seconds or so until the corn is finished popping so the sugar doesn’t scorch. You will know it's done when you count 2 or more seconds of silence between pops. Quickly remove from heat and pour it into a bowl. Let it cool a bit and then break up the clumps so you have individual popped kernels.You can seal this stuff in plastic zip lock bags or jars and it will be good for a while. I don’t know how long it will last because it never lasts very long around here. I don’t know where it goes.