No one knows for sure who discovered that the ordinary popcorn kernels explode when subjected to heat, creating a tasty treat. Archeological evidence verifies that popcorn has existed for over 5,500 years and has been consumed by native people ever since. Early Americans served this nutritious snack as a breakfast food with cream and sugar. Today, the average American eats nearly 15 gallons of popcorn a year, bringing sales of popcorn in the U.S. to over $240 million a year.
Make old-fashioned popcorn with a cast-iron kettle and oil. Heat the pan on medium heat. Add enough canola oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add two to three kernels of popcorn and wait until the kernels pop. Add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels and cover the kettle, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. Shake the kettle lightly in a back-and-forth motion to distribute the kernels. Once the kernels begin to pop, shake the pan to prevent burning. Continue to shake until the kernels stop popping. Remove the cover and pour the popcorn into a serving bowl. Cover with melted butter if preferred and salt lightly. Mix the popcorn with your hands to distribute the butter and salt. Serve warm.
Pop ordinary popcorn kernels in the microwave for fluffier popcorn. Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into a lightweight paper bag. Large, heavy bags will not work well, leaving many kernels unpopped. Set the microwave to 4 minutes and monitor closely. When popping slows or ceases, remove the bag and pour popcorn into a serving bowl. Top with your favorite seasoning and serve.
Use a hot-air popper to make fat-free popcorn. Follow the instructions that came with the popper to determine the appropriate amount of kernels to add. Turn on the popper and pour the kernels into the reservoir. Place a large bowl beneath the spout to catch popcorn as it pops. Turn off the hot-air popcorn maker when popping ceases. Serve hot.
Make popcorn over a campfire with a popcorn maker designed for outdoor popping. These come in a variety of styles. Older popcorn makers feature a wire or metal popper with a long handle. Others have a pan attached to a log handle. Follow the directions that accompany the popper and enjoy freshly made popcorn over the campfire.
Pop microwave popcorn from premade packages designed to be used in the microwave. Place the bag in the microwave and set the timer for the recommended time. Remove when popping slows and serve in a large bowl. Microwave popcorn contains all the necessary oils and comes in a wide range of flavors.