Popcorn is definitely one of my favorite snacks, but I never buy the microwaved stuff. It's loaded with questionable ingredients, has a strange taste (at least, it is strange to me now that I've been making my own for a decade), is expensive and there's a ton of packaging for a snack. For these reasons, I make my own. It's ridiculously easy (barely more effort than microwaving, really) and very cheap. I pay $.99/lb and 1 lb will make 27 c of popcorn, so it's $.15/4 cups compared to the very cheapest price of $.33/bag microwaved popcorn/4 cups popped. I buy my popcorn kernels in bulk and bring back my plastic container to reuse over and over, so there's very little packaging waste compared to microwave popcorn. There are two simple ways to pop bulk popcorn without using a microwave (some people make their own microwavable popcorn using a paper bag, but then you're increasing the packaging waste needlessly).
An air popper is fairly straight forward. Just put in your 1/4 c of popcorn kernels, put a bowl in front of the chute and turn it on. Easy. This is also great for making a super-low-fat snack since there is no oil used in popping the popcorn. It's also very frugal considering you can use bulk purchased kernels, no oil, and only a little electricity. The downside to using an air popper is that some kinds have a higher rate of widows (unpopped kernels) and you have to buy the appliance and store it even when not in use. On the other hand, if you want to get into roasting your own coffee, you can always use the popcorn popper making it a dual-use appliance.
Of course, this is just for basic, run-of-the-mill popcorn. There are a lot of fun ways to jazz it up so it never gets boring. Here are some of my favorites.
Kettle corn-After heating the oil (about 1/4 c) til sizzling over medium heat, toss in 3 kernels and wait for them to pop. As soon as they do, add a thin layer of white sugar (about 1/4 c) to the bottom of the pan then add your popcorn kernels (1/2 c). Shake frequently and dump out the popcorn as soon as it pops to keep it from carmelizing. Add salt to taste. This is a perfect sweet and salty snack and much cheaper than buying it at festivals and fairs.
Caramel corn-This is made the same as kettle corn, but using brown sugar instead of white. Add peanuts right at the end if you'd like.
Buy cheddar cheese powder in bulk for a cheesy popcorn. Just toss in the powder after popping and salt to taste.
Basic savory-Sprinkle with seasoning salt.
Taco popcorn-Use taco seasoning and perhaps some cheddar cheese powder.
Pizza-Add oregano, basil, garlic powder, cheese powder and dehydrated tomato powder.
Cinnamon sugar-1/4 c white sugar + 1 tbsp cinnamon, blended well.
Chili cheese- Mix a little chili powder or cayenne powder into cheddar cheese powder.
Everything-sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt, garlic powder, onion powder
Maple Bacon-Drizzle with maple syrup and add crumbled bacon. Needs no extra salt.
What are your favorite homemade popcorn recipes?