Food & Swine

Top Secret Kettle Corn

Top Secret Kettle Corn for kids

Sweet and salty Kettle Corn is our family’s number one, favorite snack.  My husband grew up eating lots of popcorn and he’s passed down his love for it to the kids.  A couple of years ago we came across the easiest kettle corn recipe and tried it.  It was devoured and quickly became our coveted family secret.  I don’t have ‘secret’ recipes, as you’ve found out.  I love to share every recipe that I deem worthy, what’s the point of having something great and not sharing it?  This is the fluffiest popcorn with a delicate crisp sugar coating and a hint of salt.  It is the perfect snack, if you ask me and is exactly like the kettle corn you can buy at the Farmer’s Market, which is stirred in giant drums with a wooden paddle.

Kettle Corn Canva

First thing: start of with fresh popcorn.  Skip that stuff that’s been sitting in your pantry for 6 months, trust me. If you use old popcorn, it will be tough and chewy. Buy a new jar/bag of popcorn kernels at the grocery store, snag some granulated sugar, vegetable oil and salt.  If you have those ingredients, you’re ready to pop!

I frequently get ‘corn questions’. Corn, in many fashions has been a big part of my life.  There are 3 main types of corn.

Top Secret Kettle Corn

Field Corn: 98-99% of the corn in Iowa is field corn. This variety is grown to make livestock feed, ethanol and more (see corn facts at the end of the post, courtesy of The Iowa Food and Family Project).
Sweet Corn: Less than 2% of the corn you see planted in Iowa is sweet corn.  This is the kind of corn we eat, that you can buy at roadside stands and that you find in a can on the grocer’s shelves and in the freezer section.
Popcorn: This is also a small contributor to the ‘corn’ in Iowa, less than 2% like sweet corn.  Popcorn is dried on the cob and harvested much like field corn.  My uncle used to grow popcorn and would give us some cobs with the kernels intact.  We’d put them in a brown paper sack and microwave… then reveal freshly popped corn!

Here’s our mock popcorn harvest… my 2 year old boy likes to replay corn-picking as much as possible.  He’s sad that we’re not in the field anymore. This is Grandpa in the combine and Mommy and Aunt T in the tractor. (We don’t harvest popcorn, FYI.  Just playin’ around!)

Top Secret Kettle Corn

This is the combine with the (field) corn head on it.  There are settings (I think) on this combine for popcorn as well as field corn of course.  (I never knew that until I called my Dad).

Top Secret Kettle Corn

This is field corn, picked when the plant is dry and the kernels are dry, too.  Isn’t it so pretty?

Secret Kettle Corn

This is popcorn.  (FYI: Don’t be a dummy and open up the pot lid while you’re making kettle corn.  The hot sugar WILL burn you.  Just like it burned me today.  I may or may not have jumped around my kitchen, swinging my arms up and down while screaming. Ouch!)

Top Secret Kettle Corn

And… my favorite:  Sweet Corn.  It is tender and picked when the plant is still green.  I love it served the traditional way.

Top Secret Kettle Corn

A harvested field of corn.  We’re putting it into the wagons and storing it in bins where there are fans and units to stir the corn in the bin to dry the corn to a percentage of desired moisture.

Top Secret Kettle Corn

My sister was kind enough to take the camera from my hands and take a picture.  We got to ride together on the last day of harvest (see the corn in the background?).  It is always a nostalgic feeling when harvest finishes up.  I like working with my family together.  We like being together, we were raised that way I guess.

Harvest 2014

Today, we helped Grandpa store all of the wagons until next year.

Top Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn Recipe

Sweet ‘n Salty Kettle Corn
By: Cristen
Makes 10 cups

1/2 C popcorn kernels
1/4 C oil
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt

In a large soup pot over medium heat 5/10 to 6/10 on an electric cooktop, put popcorn, oil and sugar in.  Stir together until well combined.  Cover and continue to swish mixture around until kernels start popping.  Continue to swish and cook until there are 3-4 seconds between pops.  Once the oil is to temperature, the popping process will take 2-3 minutes from the time the popcorn begins popping until it is finished.  Immediately turn out into a large bowl, sprinkle evenly with salt.  Let cool a bit (hot sugar will burn you badly!) and serve.

Mix with raisins and chocolate candies for a trail mix treat!  I package this mix in mason jars… my son is going to give this to his ‘teacher crush’ tomorrow at the Fall Party.  (My daughter’s kindergarten teacher.)  We may wrap a bow on it with a paper tag.  I like putting popcorn in glass because it doesn’t absorb any off-flavors, plus it is so cute!

Add to the kettle corn:
1 bag M&Ms and 1 small bag of jumbo raisins. Mix well.

Top Secret Kettle Corn

More field corn facts:

Top Secret Kettle Corn

Field Corn Facts courtesy of The Iowa Food and Family Project:

  • Corn is in over 4,000 everyday grocery items such as shampoo, toothpaste, crayons, paper and many more.
  • A single corn bushel can sweeten about 400 cans of soda pop.
  • 99% of corn planted in the U.S. is field corn and only 1% is sweet corn.
  • Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
  • The number of kernels per ear can vary from 500 to about 1,200, but a typical ear would have 800 kernels.
  • One acre of corn is about the size of a football field.
  • In an average year, Iowa produces more corn than most countries.
  • Ethanol reduces the price of gasoline $1.69/gallon for consumers in the Midwest.
  • Iowa livestock consumes 292 million bushels of corn each year.

My friend Julie from Farm Eats City Streets shares The Journey of a Bushel of Corn and other great corn facts here. She farms with her husband Mark and adorable children in central Iowa.

Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply countrylinked November 4, 2014 at 12:07 am

    It looks so good!! We are popcorn eaters and love Kettle Corn!
    Love all of your harvest pictures too. We are done with the soybeans and are back to shelling corn here in MO. Fingers crossed the rain stays away for a few more days. :)
    Laurie – Country Link

  • Reply tiffanyfilloon November 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    What kind of oil to you use/prefer?

    • Reply Cristen November 5, 2014 at 12:14 am

      I just use vegetable oil! Peanut oil is great too. :)

  • Reply Sarah [] January 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Can I make a reader request? I love love LOVE your recipes, you should get a recipe card plugin (I use EasyRecipe Plus) so I can print them off easily from your site! Also, BIGGER PICTURES! ;)

    • Reply Cristen January 30, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Sarah, it is coming! I’m working on moving to a self-hosted platform so that should help! All of your requests are desires I’ve had since I started this adventure a year ago! Still trying to find the perfect format, and I’m open to suggestions! XOXO

      • Reply Sarah [] February 2, 2015 at 1:55 am

        Love your blog so much, can’t wait to see it grow!

  • Reply Juli yost January 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Full admiration ❤

    • Reply Cristen January 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Too kind Juli! XOXO

    Leave a Reply