We've been on something of an old movie kick lately, Casablanca, Key Largo, The African Queen all great movies to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy. This got me thinking though about popcorn itself. The stuff in movie theaters now is absolutely horrible stuff with the texture of packing peanuts usually drowned in a greasy substance masquerading as butter. It wasn't always this way though so I went on the hunt to see how popcorn was made and sold in the 1930's and learned a little about popcorn history along the way.
Popcorn has been around for at least 4,000 years being the favored treat for the Aztecs but the modern era stared with the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. There Charles Cretors presented his new popcorn popping machine and the world fell in love with popcorn. Even though it was popular from the 1890's to the 1920's it would take the Great Depression to really kick start it's popularity. Even the poorest families could afford to buy a 5¢ bag of popcorn and with movies being a favorite diversionary pastime of down and out families popcorn became well liked. During WWII popcorn sales hit their high water mark as sugar rationing forced people to look to popcorn for a tasty treat. Today the largest sales of popcorn revolve around microwave bags, favored for their simplicity and ease of preparation.1
If you want to get that real 1930's taste though you need to give up the bag and go back to the pot. It's not a hard transition and I'll give you a few reasons for choosing a jar of popcorn kernels over microwave popcorn:
1) Greater variety of choices, there's more than just yellow popcorn out there
2) Avoid the chemicals in microwave popcorn bags
3) Healthier, you control what goes into the cooking process
4) Because it's fun
You will need 2 things for a great old time popcorn experience, unsalted organic butter (Kerrygold, Organic Valley, etc.) and popcorn salt. The salt you can make at home if you have a mortar and pestle. You just take a few tablespoons of kosher salt and grind it until it looks like talc. So here's the recipe:
1930's Movie Theater Popcorn
For Each Person:
1/4 C Good Popcorn Kernels (White Cat is a good company and it sold at Marshall's & TJ Maxx)
3-4T Lard (Yes I said lard)
1T Butter, Melted
1/4tsp Popcorn Salt
Take a good sized pot (3-6qt depending on how much you're making) and put it on the stove to warm up. Add you lard and when it has melted and heated up add the popcorn kernels. Shake them around to coat with hot oil and sprinkle with popcorn salt. Cover and let heat until popping starts. As the kernels pop shake the pot every so often and crack the lid to release steam. When popping stops remove from heat, uncover and shake a few times to encourage any late kernels to pop then pour into bowl. Mix melted butter to blend and drizzle over popcorn, toss well to mix butter.
1) History of Popcorn