Sweets, treats and kettle corn

As we near Halloween, there are visions of sweets and treats looming ahead with one in particular to keep your eye out for: traditional kettle corn. Photo: James Moran

Kettle corn, October 27, 2010 by James Moran

As we near Halloween, there are visions of sweets and treats looming ahead with one in particular to keep your eye out for: traditional kettle corn.  At every football game, fairground and Halloween Festival there are sounds of crackle and pop, and aromas that are almost sickening sweet in the air.  If you follow your ears and your nose, they will lead you straight to the kettle corn vendors. 

Across the country, these craftsmen of their trade have learned the time-honored traditional secrets that have drawn crowds in from generation to generation.  The kettle corn next to the lemonade stand is one of the most popular stands at any event. 

A quick search on the Internet led me to Blazin J’s Kettle Corn.  After a tough year like so many of us have faced, Jesse Jimenez ventured out to open his very own business with none other than his concession-stand favorite: the sweet and salty treat of the kettle corn.

Kettle corn is made from hybridized mushroom corn that puffs into a perfect ball of fluffed corn when heated to the proper temperature of 350 degrees.  The shape and texture feel differ from that of regular popcorn. Regular popcorn has a slight crunch followed by an airy fluff whereas the mushroom corn is light, airy and slightly chewy. 

Chef Mary Payne Moran and Jesse Jimenez October 24, 2010.

Though making Kettle Corn is not rocket science, its perfect consistency is based upon a series of steps that are, in a way, science.  With a large kettle, the temperature of the oil needs to reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit, despite the external temperature of the air. In a matter of seconds, kernels of corn are added to the kettle oil (corn, soy, peanut) and stirred to coat each kernel with the properly-tempered oil.

At the vendors discretion, sugar will be added to the kettle of corn, aware that if not done at the right moment, the sugar could dissolve or not bond with the corn. Ultimately, if not done correctly, this can change the outcome of the finished product.

In a matter of a few minutes, the corn is popped and almost ready to go.  Final seasonings, a light coat of salt and a quick movement through the sifting bin leaves the sweet and savory kettle corn ready to be sold to its endless line of customers. 

As we near Halloween and are trying to recreate this magical treat, know that the mushroom kernel, the perfect temperature of the oil and a professional kettle are the secrets to success.  Which is why Jesse has made a career out of his concession-stand favorite.  The secrets to this success are almost impossible to recreate in a home environment and gives any event its uniqueness. Though air-popped popcorn (regular popcorn) can be seasoned with salt, sugar and various other seasonings to simulate the flavor and feeling of kettle corn, it won’t be the same. 

As you’re loading up and getting ready for Halloween parties this coming weekend, make sure to search out vendors like Jesse Jimenez from Blazin J’s Kettle Corn for this perfectly-popped corn to add a certain element of seasonal celebration. With its sweet and salty taste, it will blend in perfectly with the homemade stews, chili and candy bars on this evening of tricks and treats. 

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary

For more great cooking tips, recipes and stories from Chef Mary, visit her blog. To learn more about Chef Mary, check out her Hail Mary’s Inc. Web site. E-mail questions for Ask Chef Mary Fridays to mary@hailmarysinc.com or click the Ask Chef Mary link above. 

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The information provided is general information about healthy eating. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice or treatment that may have been prescribed by your physician or other health care provider. Always consult a physician before starting any new diet or regimen. 

or email me at mary@hailmarysinc.com


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Mary Moran

Upon graduating from the California School of Culinary Arts in 2002, Chef Mary Payne Moran began her professional career shelling crabs at the world-renowned restaurant, Michael's in Santa Monica.  Simultaneously, she launched her own company, Hail Mary’s, founded upon the belief that good food nurtures the soul, and began catering weddings, parties and large corporate events.

In the fall of 2008, Mary began teaching her culinary skills to others.    Currently she can be found at Hollywood School House teaching her after school cooking class, and teaching her popular "Vegetables or Not Here I Come" assembly.

Most recently, Mary has launched another division in her company as well as a chef she is now also a Certified Nutritionist for high profile clients.  She helps her clients discover their healthy way of eating.  Mary has recently been published in the Los Angeles Magazine, & The New Jersey Star Ledger.

Daily she addresses cooking aficionados through her blog - Cooking with Chef Mary as well as her how-to webisodes on You Tube.

Contact Mary Moran


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