Popcorn | Street Food India.
Popcorn is also known as popping corn. It is a type of corn that expands from the kernel and puffs up when heated. Popcorn is able to pop because, like amaranth grain, sorghum, quinoa and millet, its kernels have a hard moisture-sealed hull and dense starchy innards. When heated, pressure builds within the kernel, and a small explosion (or “pop”) is the end result. Some strains of corn are now cultivated specifically as popping corns. Popcorn is a popular street food item that is available at every corner of India, especially in front of all movie theatres.
Popcorn Food Etymology.
Food etymology says, a larger-scale, commercial popcorn machine was invented by Charles Cretors in the late 19th century. Un-popped popcorn is considered non-perishable and will last indefinitely if stored in ideal conditions. Depending on how it is prepared and cooked, some consider popcorn to be a health food, while others caution against it for a variety of reasons. Popcorn can also have non-food applications, ranging from holiday decorations to packaging materials.
Food history says, corn was first domesticated in Mexico 9,000 years ago from a wild grass. The oldest specimen of popcorn was found in New Mexico, and is about 5,600 years old. It is speculated that popcorn was introduced to the pre-Columbian North America by the Iroquois, with the process being observed by European settlers on the eastern part of the continent. Popping of the kernels was achieved manually through the 19th century, being sold on the east coast under names such as ‘Pearls‘ or ‘Nonpareil‘. The term ‘popped corn‘ first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms.
Popcorn was an ingredient in Cracker Jack, and in the early years of the product was popped by hand. Popcorn’s accessibility increased rapidly in the 1890s with Charles Cretors’ invention of the popcorn maker. F.W. Rueckheim introduced a molasses-flavoured “Candied Popcorn“, the first caramel corn in 1896.
Popcorn Making Process.
Popcorn’s popping mechanism includes the process of a kernel popping. Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil. Unlike most other grains, the outer hull of the popcorn kernel is both strong and impervious to moisture and the starch inside consists almost entirely of a hard type. As the oil and the water within the kernel are heated, they turn the moisture in the kernel into pressurized steam. Under these conditions, the starch inside the kernel gelatinizes, softens, and becomes pliable. The pressure continues to increase until the breaking point of the hull is reached, a pressure of about 135 psi and a temperature of 180 °C (356 °F). The hull ruptures rapidly, causing a sudden drop in pressure inside the kernel and a corresponding rapid expansion of the steam, which expands the starch and proteins of the endosperm into airy foam. As the foam rapidly cools, the starch and protein polymers set into the familiar crispy puff. Special varieties are grown to give improved popping yield.
Popcorn cooking method is easy. Popcorn can be cooked with butter or oil. Although small quantities can be popped in a stove-top kettle or pot in a home kitchen, commercial sale of freshly popped popcorn employs specially designed popcorn machines, which were invented in Chicago, Illinois, by Charles Cretors in 1885. A very different method of popcorn-making can still be seen on the streets of some Chinese cities and Korea today. The un-popped corn kernels are poured into a large cast-iron canister – sometimes called a ‘popcorn hammer‘, that is then sealed with a heavy lid and slowly turned over a curb side fire in rotisserie fashion. When a pressure gauge on the canister reaches a certain level, the canister is removed from the fire, a large canvas sack is put over the lid and the seal is released. With a huge boom, all of the popcorn explodes at once and is poured into the sack. This method is believed to have been developed during the Song dynasty originally for puffing rice.
Popcorn Producers and Sellers.
Indian producers and sellers of popcorn consider two major factors in evaluating the quality of popcorn: what percentage of the kernels will pop, and how much each popped kernel expands. Expansion is an important factor to both the consumer and vendor. For the consumer, larger pieces of popcorn tend to be much tender and are associated with higher quality. For the grower, distributor, and vendor, expansion is closely correlated with profit: vendors such as theaters buy popcorn by weight and sell it by volume. For both these reasons, higher expansion popcorn fetches a higher profit per unit weight.
Popcorn and Theaters.
Popcorn is commonly eaten in movie theaters. This snack is usually served salted or sweetened. In India, it is traditionally served salted, often with butter or a butter-like topping or with toffee or spices. However, sweetened versions, such as caramel corn and kettle corn, are also commonly available.
Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fibre and antioxidants, low in calories and fat, and free of sugar and sodium. But popcorn involves health risks. Popcorn is included on the list of foods that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving to children under four, because of the risk of choking. Microwaveable popcorn represents a special case, since it is designed to be cooked along with its various flavouring agents. One of these formerly common artificial-butter flavorant “diacetyl” has been implicated in causing respiratory illnesses in microwave popcorn factory workers, also known as “popcorn lung.”
The world’s largest popcorn ball was unveiled in October 2006 in Lake Forest, Illinois. It weighed 3415 pounds (1549 kg), measured 8 feet (240 cms) in diameter and had a circumference of 24.6 ft (750 cms). This is recorded in Guiness Book of World Records.