In 1898 the Farmers and Fruit-growers' Guide had a very thorough article about the different type of corn. A fact filled article with variety comparisons, when the writers got to the pop corns they went all happy and nostalgic! This is a very pleasant read. It is a nice introduction into future popcorn posts in the planning.
While we write it as popcorn now, it was pop corn originally, becoming pop-corn by the time of this article. Actually, it was called chicken corn before any pop name.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as I did...the creative writing part starts about 3 paragraphs in! BTW - this is an Australian piece.
How to pop—
It is half the battle to have the corn properly cured, but not more than half; the popping is the other half. If the corn is properly cured, the popping is bound to be some sort of a success; but to attain the best success a little practice is necessary. It is a delicate operation, in which a few seconds make all the difference. Have a hot fire. If the fire is in a stove, have the lids so hot that they gleam in the dark. This is the beet heat of all, and secures good results with the utmost certainty. If such a heat cannot be obtained, the corn may be popped directly over coals. Never put too much corn into the popper at once. The popper is a hopper made of wire-netting (corn-proof), and having a wooden handle about a yard long, attached the dipper.
Barely cover the bottom of the popper with kernels, and then close the lid and fasten it so securely that the popper may be turned upside down with impunity. Now warm the corn at some distance from the stove or coals, keeping it always in motion by shaking the popper back and forth, until the first kernels are heard to pop; then lower the popper as near the coals as possible, and shake vigorously until all are popped. It is a lively time. There is nothing morose about pop-corn. How it snaps! It is enough to carry the old soldier back to war times. It starts reminiscences. You are in for a night of it—but you must look out that it does not burn; keep it shaking! After the last kernels have ceased popping, raise the popper a bit, and roast the popped mass a minute or two, turning all sides to the fire. Be careful that it does not scorch or catch on fire. It will burn like tinder.
Now it is done. Open the popper lid and pour into a tin basin; salt it, or butter it and then salt it, and put it before your guest within five minutes. He will thank you, especially if his only previous acquaintance with popcorn has been through the medium of the man who sells it in paper bags.
Butter should be supplied in small quantities. Melt a piece half the size of a small walnut in a large dish and pour the popped corn on it, and stir it a moment while hot. Serve the corn in another warm dish. Butter all the corn in same dish, adding butter and melting it as required.
It is surprising how much popped corn a man can eat. A peck is a moderate allowance. Most people get modest before they have eaten all they would really like. A good sized handful of kernels makes a peck when popped. Popped-corn is very easily digested, and children may have an unlimited supply of it. They love it dearly (of course I do not refer to that sold by the paper-bag man). Popped-corn is often eaten in milk. It is a dish well suited to children and persons of weak digestion.
It is well worth noting that popped-corn furnished the idea for the preparation of corn starch or flour on an extensive commercial scale.Corn starch is now prepared by saturating corn with superheated steam under pressure in iron cylinders. When the proper pressure is reached the end of the cylinder is suddenly knocked off, and the whole mass instantly explodes into the finest starch imaginable.
Popped-corn, it must be remembered, is a winter luxury in America, and is not so much thought of in summer. Many along winter's evening is sweetened by its presence among the high as well as low, but it is at the farmer's fireside that it is seen at its best.
It is long since dark, and the "chores" are done. Father sits before the fire deciphering the political situation by the aid of the local paper; mother is knitting stockings. Some one is inspired with the thought of popped-corn.
The corn is stored up-stairs out in the long wood-house. It is freezing cold; and it makes the cold-shivers run down the backs of the girls to think of going for it. Susan thinks Mary ought to go. Mary thinks Susan ought to go. They both think Tommy ought to go—he knows best which to bring. Tommy being the youngest, of course has to go ; but he has the satisfaction of having Mary sent along with him "to see that he does not set the house on fire with the light." The corn shelled, the popper is got down from the top shelf in the pantry, and then there is a bustle to "see which fire is the best." This momentous question settled, it is not long before the first shot is heard along the skirmish line, followed by a rattling volley—from the popper. A delicate aroma steals through the house, and about this time father awakes to the situation, and is ready for the nonce to let politics go to the dogs, and drown his fear of the country being wrecked generally, in a plate of popped-corn. It is grand. The memory of it is worth thousands of pounds in after life.
What would the American Christmas be without popped corn? It is matchless for festooning Christmas-trees, and is universally employed in various ways. Strung on threads by dainty fingers, it is used in yards upon yards, and forms snow-white delicate festoons which contrast beautifully with the green of the spruce tree and the light of the candles. At all church Christmas festivals bags of lollies are hung on the trees, one for each child, judiciously diluted with fresh popped corn—a bit of economy; it makes the lollies go further, and besides it is better for the children.
Pop-corn cakes and pop-corn balls.—These are the accompaniments of the Yankee candy-pull. A candy-pull is an evening party whose ostensible object is to transform New Orleans or Porto Rico molasses (treacle) into candy (lollies), a process which it is not necessary to describe here, and then to make away with the same; but which is in reality designed to bring people together in social intercourse. Popped-corn can be made to adhere in balls or cakes by the application of a very small amount of hot, well cooked molasses. The combination is a very pleasant one. The process is carried out on a commercial scale by many confectioners. Carefully assorted popped-corn, coarsely pulverized and freed of all hard parts, is cemented into cakes 2 inches by 2 inches, and half an inch thick by means of cooked molasses, and put on the market in tins like those used for biscuits. It is one of the best confections made.
There are two other ways of popping corn that deserve mention: Have a saucepan of boiling hot fat and drop the kernels, a few at a time, into the fat. They sink but soon pop and come to the top, and are then taken off immediately with a skimmer and salted. This does very well in cold climates where appetites are sharp, but the result is a little too greasy to be appetizing under other circumstances. Finally, corn may be popped in hot ashes. Have a bed of new hot ashes and a clean hearth. Throw the kernels into the ashes and they will soon pop out on to the hearth surprisingly clean.
"The little boy gathered them into a heap,
And called them his flock of milk white sheep."