Whoa! That’s a lot of hands, especially considering I really can’t see you. But I do know annual sales of popcorn hover around a billion pounds a year. I can only imagine it looks like a mosh pit out there with me poised to dive into today's tasty blog.
I’m all about popcorn after my visit to The Popcorn Factory in Lake Forest, Illinois, especially given October is National Popcorn Poppin' Month. I couldn't agree more, this 1-800-FLOWERS family brand manufacturing facility is the "popcorn authority" when it comes to America's favorite snack.
Air popped popcorn has about 31 calories per cup, which is how every popcorn product at The Popcorn Factory begins its journey from kernel to popped corn. Their Sea Salt Slim Popcorn has 37 calories per cup. Somehow, they know exactly how to make the most of those 6 extra calories. Whatever their secret recipe, I’m sold on this low-cal option although that doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up chocolate yet.
In fact, my favorite flavor of popcorn comes with chocolate, The Popcorn Factory's Chocolate Drizzle Caramel Corn (130 calories per cup, but who's counting!). It’s soooooo decadent, although there was NO SAMPLING off the line! Fortunately there were no admonitions about sampling off the floor. I won’t tell if you don’t tell!
Did you know, of the four most common types of corn – sweet, field, flint and zea mays everta – the zea mays everta is the only one suitable for popping? Yep, and every kernel at The Popcorn Factory is also kosher and meets stringent guidelines for international sales.
Native American Indians believed a spirit inside the corn grew angry when heated and would burst out of the hull in a disgruntled puff of steam. Sounds good to me, but Colonel Alan set me straight.
Apparently, inside the moisture-proof hull of each kernel is a starchy endosperm that becomes pliable when heated to precisely 356 degrees. The pressure builds inside until the now gelatinous starchy substance ruptures the hull. As the starch and proteins of the endosperm break free of the hull they immediately begin cooling into the familiar crispy puff we call
popcorn. That kernel, now reduced to 86% of its original weight (ideal moisture content for popping is 13.5%) following the spectacular show of fireworks, is called either a mushroom or a butterfly.
Of course, too much power and you can blow a fuse (or heaven forbid, lose interest). Time for an intermission.
Tomorrow: the heart of our tour; the world’s largest popcorn ball; and how to receive a 20% discount on all your purchases at the Popcorn Factory Store.