"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best Popcorn

If you didn't have a microwave, how would you pop your popcorn?

I can just imagine a deer in the headlights look on some youngster's face if you asked them that question.  It would be like pointing to a cassette tape deck and asking them if they'd like to hear some music. The reason I didn't use a turntable as an example is because young people recognize that as a noise generating device to go along with other obnoxious noise set to a really loud bass track, along with which some tone-deaf, talentless hack speaks vaguely rhyming words.   But I digress.

I had a microwave for years.  Don't now.  And what I'm about to tell you, will seem like the kind of pseudo-scientific drivel that drives me nuts about the eco-wackos who believe in anthropogenic global warming and are against the cleanest, "greenest," efficient form of energy: nuclear.  In case you didn't know; France, a nation teetering on extinction because of its failed socialist policies is still smart enough to be producing 90% of it's electricity from nuclear energy, and so efficiently re-cycling the material that the waste is negligible.

We don't have a microwave because several years ago, years before we met, Twyla and I both discovered scientific evidence that microwave energy does indeed alter foods at the molecular level in ways that are unhealthy.  I had to laugh recently when I discovered that some pet food manufacturers, specifically dog food, put warning labels on their product telling you not to use a microwave because of how it affects the food. Interesting how you won't find any warning labels on your microwave junk foods for human consumption.  But then, we live in a society that practically demands drawing and quartering for harming an animal, yet condones the murder of inconvenient babies.  But I digress.

I truly enjoy popcorn.  Even back when I had a microwave (still with the first wife), I didn't use the microwave to make popcorn.  That stuff designed for the microwave just wasn't that good.  They seemed to know the formula for making it smell great, but what got to the mouth just didn't satisfy.  Then I discovered the Whirlypop.  Now, I know that this device violates what is probably Alton Brown's number one rule, that any kitchen device should always be a multi-tasker. But I just have to make an exception for this one.  This little gem pops corn better than anything, but more than that, it lets you create specialty popcorn that you cannot get any other way.

Twyla didn't know about this marvel when we got married, but when I described what it did, she went on  hunt to buy one.  I don't know if it is because of the skyrocketing price of metals or because the company cut back production, but the cheapest one she could find on the web was about $60.  But God was smiling on us, because one day I was looking around in the local Ace Hardware (which, in this town, is more like an old time General Store), and there was one on a top shelf in an unopened, undisturbed box with a nice layer of dust on it.  And a price tag of $25.95.

Once we got it home, I introduced Twyla to "kettle corn."  For those of you who haven't gotten this at the county or state fair or such; it's that sweet/salty, or sweet/spicy/salty concoction that they only seem to be able to make in those giant kettles with a big wooden paddle, hence the name.

One time, for a good friend who came for a visit, we made peppermint/marshmallow popcorn.  I prefer the savory, and like to indulge in things like garlic/parmesan, or lemon/pepper/dill popcorn.

The secret of this machines success, is that it copies the design of those commercial theater popcorn poppers. In the open view, you can see that there is a shaft that goes to the bottom with a wire that scrapes the bottom when you crank the handle.  You can see the gears on the top of the lid in the first photo.

It's that wire spinning and scraping the bottom that makes all the difference.  Because of the irregular shape of popped popcorn, when you are cranking this device, there is a chain reaction of tumbling that occurs from the bottom all the way up throughout the pot.  You can see it if you open the one half-lid after the corn is popped and crank the handle.  This accomplishes three things.

 One:  It makes sure that all the un-popped kernels find their way to the bottom of the pot so that they will all pop.  I've tested this between Orville Reddenbacher and the cheapest generic popcorn.  I get the same number of un-popped kernels, about four or five out of a half cup.  That's pretty amazing to pop a six-quart salad bowl full of popcorn and only have five un-popped kernels.

Two: The already popped corn moves vertically as well as spinning around, which doesn't allow it to burn.  I know there are some of you who like some burn on your popcorn, so all you have to do is use maximum heat and stop cranking from time to time.  This means you can customize the amount of char on your corn.  Make sure you remember to re-enable your smoke detector.

Three:  That same homogeneous tumbling action means that the flavorings you put in the pot are going to evenly coat all the pieces of popcorn.  The only other way I know to get that kind of result is to put the popcorn in a plastic or brown paper bag and shake the dickens out of it.  But that only works for savory items and can waste precious butter that gets absorbed into the paper or is attracted to the plastic.  And you can't do anything with sugary coatings because it would melt the plastic or just stick the popcorn to the paper.

Finally, a great feature of this popper is that it's totally manual.  If electricity disappears, we can use it on the propane stove.  When propane is gone, we can use it on a wood fire.  Now all I have to do is try growing some popcorn this summer.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.