Stephen Fries: Popular popcorn makes tasty treats

This month, we celebrate one of the nation’s most pop-pop-popular snacks. For more than 30 years, October has been National Popcorn month. It became “official” in 1999, when then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman proclaimed October as National Popcorn Poppin’ Month. I couldn’t let the month pass without paying homage to this treat.

Discovered in the America’s thousands of years ago, popcorn is lauded for its nutritional and economic value. According to The Popcorn Board, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, roughly 42 quarts per man, woman and child.

When I think of popcorn, the first thing that comes to mind is standing at the stove as a child with my parents who let me shake Jiffy Pop Popcorn over the stovetop. Remember those aluminum foil pans with the wire handle that created a silver dome once all of the kernels popped? The television ad jingle was “the magic treat. ... As much fun to make as it is to eat.” It is amazing how food always seems to bring us down memory lane.

Sweet, savory, sticky, salty, or spicy, the classic crunch of homemade popcorn can take on almost any seasoning you can imagine. And ah, the aroma of freshly popped popcorn! It is not too early to think about some holiday gifts you can make in your kitchen using popcorn.

Many books have been published about the kernel. Andrew Smith, a teacher of culinary history wrote “Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America.” In this academic and research focused book, he explores the archaeological, agricultural, culinary and social aspects of the kernel. If you think about it, unlike other food fads, popcorn has never lost its popularity.

In addition to Smith’s book, my bookshelves have a couple of recipe-focused popcorn titles; “Popcorn! 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes”, by Carol Beckerman gives inspiration to explore this, fun grain using familiar flavorings or exotic combinations, and features 100 recipes that span the taste spectrum from savory to sweet.

“The Hoppin ’n Poppin Popcorn Cookbook: 60 Poptastic Recipes Starring the World’s favorite Snack,” by Gina Steer is bursting with mouthwatering ideas.

Popcorn is a whole grain, providing carbohydrates and fiber to the diet, and naturally low in fat and calories. With so many reasons to love popcorn why not be creative with recipes from the Popcorn Board, a nonprofit organization funded by U.S. popcorn processors to raise awareness of popcorn as a versatile, whole-grain snack. Check out these. For the recipe for cheesy popcorn cornbread, visit

Place popcorn in extra large bowl. Sauté bacon until crispy, then drain on paper towels. Chop or crumble bacon and reserve. Mix together mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside. Combine celery, carrot, bell pepper and green onions in medium bowl. Add mayonnaise mixture to vegetables. Mix thoroughly. Immediately before serving, add mayonnaise mixture, bacon and cheese to popcorn in bowl. Toss very gently to just combine. Do not over mix. Serve on lettuce leaves. If desired, garnish with extra shredded cheese and chopped bacon. Note: This salad doesn’t hold up long, so mix at the last minute and serve immediately.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk melted butter with vanilla. In another bowl, toss brown sugar with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Toss popcorn with butter mixture. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Stir. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle apple chips and toffee bits over top. Bake for 15 minutes or until toffee bits start to melt. Cool before serving. For extra crunch, add chopped pecans.

Did you know?

Popping corn is one of the top uses for microwave ovens. Most microwave ovens have a “popcorn” control button.

The peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is in the fall.

There are four main types of corn; flint, sweet field and popcorn…but only popcorn pops.

Are you a popcorn “expert? Take this quiz to find out

Popcorn pops because of:

a. magic b. water c. lye

One cup of oil-popped corn contains how many calories?

a. 31 b. 48 c. 77

Anthropologists found popcorn ears in the bat caves of New Mexico that were

a. 1,000 years old b. 2,000 years old c. 5,000 years old

On average, two tablespoons of unpopped kernels produce a quart of popcorn for about….

a. 75 cents b. 25 cents c. 6 cents

The ideal place to store popcorn is

a. In the refrigerator b. in the freezer c. in a cool, dry cupboard

There are______popcorn kernels in one cup

a. 160 b. 560 c. 1,600

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest popcorn ball weighed

a. 1,050 pounds b. 1,178 pounds c. 6,510 pounds

Answers: 1. B 2. B 3. C 4. B 5. C 6. C 7. C (Theworld’s largest popcorn ball, according to Guinness World Records 2015, was created in 2013 at the Indiana State Fair. With the help of Pop Weaver, Snax in Pax, and Indiana’s Family of Farmers, the popcorn ball weighed in at 6,510-pounds, 8 feet in diameter.

Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me.