Why does it pop? An old Indian legend says that each kernel of popcorn houses a little demon. When you heat up his house, he becomes very angry and blows up. In reality, the middle of the kernel does house a moist, pulpy mass. Heating the kernel turns the moist center to steam, which can't escape due to the hard starch shell surrounding the pulp. As the steam builds up, so does the pressure. Eventually the pressure becomes too great for the kernel and it bursts into the wonderful snack we know as popcorn. You can't just pop any dried corn kernels to get popcorn. Popcorn is a special variety of corn, different from the field corn fed to animals and the sweet corn you eat on a cob. Popcorn is high in fiber, and it makes can make a great low-fat snack, depending on what toppings you put on it.
The Native Americans introduced popcorn to the European settlers. The Algonkians even brought popped maize to the harvest feast hosted by the pilgrims. Is popcorn a traditional treat at your Thanksgiving feast? The pilgrims liked popcorn so much that they ate it for breakfast with cream poured over it, much like you eat cold cereal.
Cook's Note: Store popcorn in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator to keep moisture in the kernels. If the popcorn dries out, you'll find too many old maids (unpopped kernels) at the bottom of the pan. To add the moisture back to dried out kernels, sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of water (add to the jar). Shake the kernels and the water together until it is absorbed.
Cook's Note: You don't need a hot-air popper or even a microwave to pop popcorn. A stove, frying pan, oil and popcorn are all you need for a great snack.
1. Preheat the frying pan for two minutes by setting it on a burner and turning the heat to medium.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the heated pan.
3. Place one kernel into the frying pan. Wait for it to pop to signal to you that the oil is hot enough. Pour in a ½ cup of unpopped popcorn kernels evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with a lid.
4. Lift the pan about one-inch above the burner. Shake the pan back and forth over the heat until you hear the popcorn stop popping (about 3-4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the stove.
5. Slowly take the lid off the pan, being careful to let the steam escape without burning you. Let the popcorn cool for about 1 minutes. Pour it into a large bowl to serve.
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