You know that sweet popcorn that smells so good when you go to a fair or street carnival? Here our city holds a street festival in conjunction with our Christmas tree lighting, and there is always a kettle corn vendor.
It so happens that the 8 year old and my husband both love popcorn. As in they could live on popcorn. As in, I buy 3 pound bags of popcorn every two to three weeks. It's an excellent source of whole grain, and we don't butter it up too much, so I don't discourage it. (Well, okay, if my husband is making popcorn just for himself, he butters it up a lot. Just don't tell the 8 year old!)
The other thing the 8 year old loves it is kettle corn, and requested it for his birthday last year. Well, short of trying to find a street vendor, I decided I should try to make it myself. Turns out it's rather simple, but does require some extra attention that a regular pot of popcorn doesn't exactly need. But it's so good, some people around here can't even wait for me to take a few pictures before they dive in.
Use a good oil with a high smoke point. I prefer coconut oil for making popcorn, whether it's kettle corn or not. It has a high smoke point and adds a nice flavor. You can make this on your flat glass stove top, but be extra gentle when shaking. You may even want to slightly lift the pan while shaking to keep from damaging your surface. This takes a bit of practice and your first batch may have too much caramelized sugar on the bottom of the pan. Just remember to keep your pan moving so the sugar doesn't scorch.
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
In a large pot with a wide bottom, heat oil and 3 popcorn kernels over medium heat. Once those three kernels have popped, immediately pour in sugar. Give the sugar a quick stir to disperse it over the bottom of the pan and blend with the oil. Then pour in popcorn kernels. Cover the pan.
Let the pan sit on the burner for three seconds, then shake the pan for three seconds. Sit for three seconds, shake three seconds. Continue this pattern until popping slows and most of the kernels are popped.
Dump the popcorn out into a large bowl and lightly salt. The popcorn may stick together slightly while it's still hot.