When I think of kettle corn, I am immediately bombarded by the sights, sounds, and smells of festivals, particularly the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh. That big kettle and the smell of heated sugar! I’m jealous of the stirrers of the big kettles, as I’m attracted to any cookware that is huge, like the mixers in Smith College’s kitchens; it was always so fun making cookies in them and I feel like a Lilliputian chef. Recently I came across a recipe for kettle corn in my Vegetarian Times magazine and this weekend I finally tried it with my dad.

Oddly enough, I am an avid cook and baker, but I have never even made regular popcorn the “old-fashioned” way. In our old apartment, Alison did so a few times a week! I have never been partial to microwaveable popcorn, even though I still eat it. I grew up making popcorn with my family in the air-popping machine and melting the butter in a little metal container above the popping popcorn. Mmmm. It turns out, you can make kettle corn from start to finish in about ten minutes or less, and you will have most of the ingredients on hand, all four of them!

You will need:
yellow popcorn kernels
vegetable oil
brown sugar


Make 8 cups of popcorn according to the kernel bag directions. I have a medium-sized pot pictured above, (not a big pasta pot), so I’m not completely sure how much I made. Like a real cook, I don’t measure exactly but rather eye-ball things. Basically, coat the bottom with vegetable oil. Pour kernels in so that there is one layer of kernels covering the bottom of the pot. Cover with lid, turn on the heat to medium-high, and heat while shaking the pot every 5-10 seconds. In other words, you aren’t taking your hand off the pot handle very much.

I prefer to wear an oven mitt while doing this, even though it is covered, as I have a tendency to grab anything hot with my bare hands, and it has resulted in many burns. (I used to grab light bulbs after they had been turned on for a while to see if they were hot. Guess what? They are! I’ve never been a cautious person…)The kernels will soon begin to pop. Keep shaking! When it doesn’t sound like it’s continuously popping, it’s probably done. Carefully take a peek. (My pot was filled to the brim but not spilling over). Remove from heat. Pour into a big bowl so that it isn’t sitting in the hot pot. Choose a bowl that is preferably much bigger than the amount of popcorn; this will make it easier to stir the sugar part in a few minutes.

Put 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp water, and 2/3 cup light brown sugar into a small pot. Stir and bring to a boil. This will only take a minute or two because it is such a small amount, so don’t walk away from the stove!!! As soon as it boils, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. It will look like this:


Remove from heat and pour all over the popcorn. Add the amount of salt that you normally would to popcorn. (This is important, as kettle corn is salty AND sweet) Toss with a wooden spoon, making sure to get the sugar mixture that fell to the bottom. Let it cool a few minutes and eat eat eat!!!