Kettle Corn is a type of popcorn which is characterized by both sweet and salty flavours made with the use of light refined sugar, salt and little oil. Owing to the traditional use of cast iron kettles in preparing this dish, the name “Kettle Corn” that was assigned in those days, has stuck on, although other types of pans may be used in its preparation today.
It was the Dutch who introduced Kettle Corn in the United States back in the 18th century. It was prepared as a special treat for festive occasions and vended at fairs and common markets. This product grew in fame during the 19th century but somehow lost its charm during the 20th century. However, it made a grand and well-accepted come-back in the initial part of the 21 century.
Ingredients and Preparation
Varieties of corn that may be used for ‘Kettle Corn’ are-
• Mushroom corn which is large well-rounded ball-like popcorn, quite apt for Kettle corn preparation.
• Butterfly corn which resembles the shape of a butterfly once popped.
• Monster corn which is large and round, similar to the mushroom corn.
The method of preparation involves cooking the corn with measured amounts of salt, sugar and oil in the kettle till the corn pops. It is preferred that the mixture is stirred to avoid the sugar from burning, and also to obtain a somewhat uniform sweet crust on the popcorn. Alternately, plain popcorn can be flavoured with melted sugar or honey and salt.
Kettle corn may be considered a healthy snack owing to its low calorie density and large volume. Even a 3-cup serving of kettle corn supplies only ~ 170 calories. However, the fat content maybe slightly high at 11g of total fat for a 3-cup serving; of this 2 g makes up saturated fat. A total of 16 g of carbohydrates provides a source of energy. It is low in fiber with only 1 g in a 3-cup serving with about 6 g of sugar. A 3 cup serving supplies ~ 1 g protein.
Popcorn, as a cereal grain, has more protein value than any other whole grains. The outermost layers of popcorn, including the thick hull, are good sources of protein, phosphorous, and iron. Popcorn has higher iron content than even spinach or eggs. It also has more phosphorus and fibre than other snack foods.
It may be possible to make the Kettle Corn healthier by-
• Limiting the fat used in preparing it, using some sesame or corn oil to improve omega-6 unsaturated fat content. Extra virgin olive oil may also be used for this purpose as it helps lower LDL cholesterol.
• Replacing the sugar with artificial sweeteners like sucralose, though a slight difference in terms of texture may arise (due to absence of crunchy sugar crust), a similar tasting product may be obtained. Advantages of using sucralose are that the chance of sugar burning is reduced and a product with much lesser calorific value is obtained and replacing the salt with a pepper and dry herb (oregano) mix.
• Adding garlic powder, tomato powder, curry leaf powder or Indian dry powders like garam masala, chaat masala powders and amchur (dry mango powder for varied tastes and health benefits too.
Through the above measures, the Kettle Corn can be made suitable for consumption by overweight persons, diabetics, hypertensive people and those with elevated cholesterol levels. Owing to the sheer volume of this dish, it generates a feeling of satiety rather quickly as a result of which it can be the ideal snack for weight watchers, diabetics and others.