Popcorn is truly a culinary chameleon; it will take on any flavor you give it! Making popcorn on the stove is easy, and with this sweet popcorn recipe you will also learn how to keep your popcorn crispy. Add smoke flavor with ham drippings and mega-crunch with caramelized brown sugar that has been seasoned with mulling spices. And, don't forget that pat of butter! It is essential for helping all the flavor bits cling to each kernel for maximum crunch. —Christy Boston's Kitchen
1 one-gallon ziplock bag
plain yellow popcorn kernels
ham drippings or pork fat
light brown sugar
mulling spice powder, fine ground (or one mulled cider packet)
Add the vegetable oil and three kernels popcorn to a large pot or kettle with a tight fitting lid (preferably transparent) and turn on the heat to medium-high.
While the oil is heating, mix together the ham drippings and butter in a microwave safe mug. Melt for 45 seconds, stopping halfway through to swirl the ingredients together, set aside. Use a fork to thoroughly combine the brown sugar, mulling spices and salt in a separate ramekin, taking care to break up any sugar chunks. Set aside.
When the first kernel in the pot pops, this means that your oil is at the right temperature to add the remaining kernels. (Doing it this way will nearly eliminate the problem of having un-popped or burnt kernels at the bottom of your pan.) Cover the popcorn (with a transparent lid, if you have one, so you can see what is going on in there!) When the kernels begin to pop, they will do so pretty quickly, so keep a close eye on them, shaking the pot every so often to evenly distribute the heat. When you only hear a pop every 5 seconds or so and you hear a whole lot of sizzling, immediately remove the pot from the heat.
Drizzle the ham drippings and butter mixture over the hot popcorn as soon as you take it off the heat. Replace the lid and while holding it in place, shake the pot with the popcorn and fat until well coated. Immediately (and I mean, immediately - getting the seasoning into the hottest heat after the kernels are done popping is the only way that the sugars will caramelize) add the sugar seasoning, replace the lid and while holding it in place, shake everything vigorously for about 1 minute. The idea here is to evenly distribute the sugar and spice while caramelizing it into mini-chunks that coat the popcorn. Maximum crunch mission accomplished!