Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You Had Me At Savory

Bacon Popcorn For The Win

Dear +Maggie Unzueta , +Joann Woolley and +Larry Fournillier Sorry I couldn't make the Bacon Popcorn Hangout  That 'thing' that my wife had me do that day was.. well.. kinda important. It was our first grandchild's (boy) Baptism. If she ever learns that I had forgotten it when we were discussing me being in the hangout the other day... I'll be able to slide popcorn in through my missing teeth. :-).  So I watched the replay, and when I heard the word ‘savory’ I knew there were some popcorn aficionados in the group.  I thought I'd share some stuff myself.

Why I'm Qualified

My credentials as a Popcornologist are well known in this area.  My wife and I owned four gourmet popcorn gift shops for several years.  We made seventy-five flavors or more of the stuff. Anything from Strawberry Cream, Blue Raspberry, and Mint Chocolate Eclair, to fiery hot "Death by Popcorn".  We made everything from scratch, and we used the best ingredients we could find. We didn't use spray on butter. We used the real stuff. Our candy corns (the hard coated variety) had real butter as well. We used Kraft Cheese, fresh hot peppers, and other top of the line spices.  We scraped cinnamon, coffee, and vanilla beans. It was worth it. I still get requests from friends to make them some "Vanilla ButterNut Pecan Popcorn".  But when we sold the shops, the equipment went with them.

Why We Sold The Shops

We sold the shops one at a time, not as a 'chain'. We sold them because the pace was too intense. . During the "Whatever Holiday/Celebration" event days we were busy. So busy that we stayed up for three and four days in a row, with no sleep. Not even a wink. We had to rent room in the floor space of stores that had closed in the malls.  The last store we owned, did $57,000 on Valentines Day, and over 100K for the week.  And Valentines Day wasn't even the biggest season. Christmas was crazier, but people usually bought those gifts in advance. It took two eighteen wheelers to deliver our Christmas tins.

That's Only Two Weeks 

Yeah.. I know. Originally, we had moved into the malls on Kiosks. We were only there from Black Friday until January 1st. But the malls asked us to stay, so we did.  And mall rent isn't cheap. Plus we had a mortgage and car payments. So, we set to work figuring out how to sell popcorn. A lot of it. We did it by turning every holiday into an event.  St. Patty's had Green Apple Candy Corn and Beer Nut Savory.  Easter had Chocolate Cherry Bunny Corn molds and Jordan Almond Crunch.  Secretaries Day, Grandparents Day, and Groundhog Day all presented opportunities to create new flavors. Fourth of July was time for Watermelon, Blueberry, and White Chocolate Cheddar Corn. It was fun.

I Could Talk About It All Day

But I won't. I think you get the idea.  I like popcorn. I like retail. And I like sharing stuff. So I think I'll share some pictures and tips that you might find interesting. We were in the top five customers for Sam’s Club in Georgia. We never bought less than a ton of popcorn at a time...unless they didn't have it. Because we were buying a almost two tons of sugar a week, sometimes we had to buy it at the local grocery stores. So, the DEA came charging into the stores one day with their badges raised. They were making sure we weren’t making moonshine

Some Special Equipment And Memories 

  • This is my HEAVY cast iron stove top popper made by Echols back in the 80's. The top is what I think they used to call "pot metal". It weighs 8.2 pounds. The recessed areas in the top are to measure the corn, and the inside has marks on the pot for oil. It makes the best popcorn of any stove top popper I've had. Probably because of the way the metal dispenses the heat, and because of the way I start the process...which is mentioned below.  I keep the metal 'seasoned'.  I only clean it with a rag. I do clean the top and spinners though, and I boil water in it before I cook each time. 
  • This sign is one that used to hang in one my stores. Look on the bottom right. SAVORY! :-) I guess the prices really date the sign. It's in my garage now.

Other notes in no particular order. 

  • The dry popcorn poppers George mentioned were air poppers. They had little cups on the top of the popper. That was where you put the butter in during the pop. Nicely melted warm butter at the perfect time. 
  •  I couldn’t tell if you do this +Maggie Unzueta , but I put three kernels in the popper while the oil heats. As soon as all three pop, pour in the rest of the popcorn. It pops bigger and cleaner that way. I use canola oil, but the shops had two poppers. One for canola, the other for coconut. 
  • If you get real popcorn salt from your local food wholesaler, and put it in the oil while the oil heats...it’s gives it a different flavor than shaking it on the top afterwards. Both are good, but different. 
  • One of my favorite recipes is putting a little garlic salt, dry Italian seasonings, and salt in the oil when it heats. As soon as the three kernels pop put the other popcorn in. You’ll love it. If you put the ingredients in while it's heating up it 'cooks' in the flavors. This transfers the flavor to the oil, which gets absorbed by the kernels as they pop. So, the flavor is IN the kernel. You have to watch it though. When the kernels pop, put in the popcorn. The spices don't hold up well to the heat and will burn. 
  • Find a tub of the cheese like they use in Macaroni and Cheese. Melt 1 part butter with 3 parts cheese. Fill a big container with a lid ¾ of the way full with popped popcorn. That will give you room for the shaking. Pour the cheese mixture on the popcorn, put the lid on and shake until well dispersed. 

Hot Popcorn" recipes. 

We had a bunch of them. "PuckerButt Popcorn" and "Once Bitten, Twice Burned" were the hottest. You can experiment with stuff until you find the hotness you prefer.  The main ingredients are 1 part butter, and 3 parts cheese and 357 Mad Dog Sauce.  You can add Habenero , Cayenne pepper, and even Jookla if you want, but it's not necessary. Just melt it like before, put it in the container and shake.  After you have shaken the cheese and popcorn mix, throw in some dry hot spices.  Oh... and make sure you get them to sign a release form before they eat it.  We did.

Medium Hot Corns

For a more balanced hot popcorn, put in Texas Pete, or Tabasco Sauce in the cheese/butter mixture as it melts. That's the way I like it. The other stuff is just too dang hot.

My next batch will have bacon grease and bacon bits in it as Maggie's Kitchen suggests. I never thought of doing it that way before. It sounds fantastic.  We did have a bacon and cheeseburger popcorn, but we ground up beef cubes and bacon bits for that.

About Potato Chip Sandwich

According to some people, men can't tell time, can't follow directions and can't cook. That's simply not true. The owner and author of the site, me..  can cook. This site is simply a way for me to keep up with my recipes without putting it into my other 10 or so blogs. Everything is Google-ized, so it's connected to all my other stuff. This site gets it's name from road trips when I was in my 20's. By the time we would head home all we could afford was a loaf of bread and some potato chips.

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