Popcorn And The Hot Air Popper

In the 1970’s my family had one of those dome popcorn poppers that used oil, very similar to this one:

The oil went in the bottom, the popcorn kernels went in with the oil, the machine would get hot, then my mom would shake it vigorously while it was full of dangerously hot oil… welcome to the 70’s…

Then in 1980-82 we got one of these:

It’s a West Bend Poppery II. The top part of the lid functions as a measuring device for the popcorn and it can be used to melt butter while the popcorn is popping. Very clever. It pops popcorn start to finish in around three minutes. I’m not sure how that compares to microwave popcorn, but it has to be similar.

As a fluke, the popper wound up in a box that I brought with me to Seattle in the mid-90’s and it still works great. With my new “Poker Chip Diet” I’ve been using plain popcorn as a space-filling, mouth-filling, low calorie snack. Three tablespoons of kernels makes 7-1/2 cups of popcorn and comes out to 120 calories. After I finish off even half that much popcorn I’m generally ok with being done eating for a while.

As for the popcorn — we really hadn’t been eating popcorn prior to this year. I know this because the bag in the pantry was dated “Best By 08/08/2013.” It still popped fine. That’s the bag on the top right:

For new stuff we purchased a jar of Orville Redenbacher’s and a package of Jolly Time. As it turns out, the Jolly Time works better with our setup. The hot air popper is designed to have the popcorn pop at the bottom of the unit, then gradually get pushed up and go over the edge of the lip and fall into the bowl. In our case the bowl is a 7-1/2 quart dutch oven. The Redenbacher’s pops up larger, but it’s also a lot more energetic, and we wind up with seeds and popped corn throughout the kitchen — it shoots lots of seeds out of the popper just due to how explosive it is. Ultimately the yield winds up being better with the Jolly Time, just because we’re not wasting nearly as many seeds.

Of course, we’re using a 40 year-old popcorn popper. Maybe the new hot air poppers do something to account for corn kernels that have probably changed a lot over the last half century.

Still, it’s a fun bit of noise and nostalgia every time we plug it in. There’s no on-off switch.

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