Hi all, today I’m talking with Bud’s Popcorn owner and farmer, Brad Cessna.
Earlier this year, I was scheduled to meet up Brad to learn more about popcorn. If you’ve been following along at all, you know that this year hasn’t gone according to plan. Well, then again, that’s life I guess.
This winter our two youngest kids were sick for 8 weeks STRAIGHT. We couldn’t even leave the house so FedEx and UPS were here almost daily delivering my Amazon Prime and Target orders. I’m certain we paid for our doctor’s children’s college education with all the visits. It was also right around that time that my dad was diagnosed with cancer and that was where my attention needed to be. (You can read about that here.)
Anyway, the owner of Bud’s Popcorn, Brad Cessna, was gracious enough to answer my questions about popcorn farming and his business at a later date. I was curious to learn more about this all-American popped snack.
I have lots of memories snacking on big bowls of popcorn, cooked by my dad, and always served in a monstrous green Tupperware bowl. Brad’s family had a similar popcorn ritual. He was inspired to start his popcorn business by memories of his grandfather’s habit of treating himself to a big bowl of popcorn at the end of a hard days work. His grandfather did what any loving grandfather would do – he let the grandkids share and shared farm stories. I’d say that’s pretty priceless.
Twenty years later, Bud’s Popcorn was born and is grown alongside corn and soybeans in DeKalb County. Much like a standard corn crop, it is harvested in the fall. Brad said the popcorn hybrids aren’t as strong as most field corn, so they try to let it dry as long as possible but they need to get it out of the fields before the winds pick up and blow the corn down.
I wondered how to tell the difference between field corn and popcorn in the field – remember I’m still a farmer in training still!! I learned the easiest way to note the difference between the two is by the skinny ear size of popcorn, which is typically half as large as field corn but similar in length. Another way to tell from the field is the tassels. Popcorn varieties have a “floppy” tassel where field corn usually stands upright. You better believe I’m going to be looking for that this summer.
I’ll be honest and say I thought popcorn was popcorn, but it turns out there’s a difference! Bud’s Popcorn is a white variety, which Brad believes has more flavor and better texture.
Here’s where it gets interesting…concession stands and movie theaters use yellow popcorn because it’s bigger in size – think quantity over quality. He said most yellow varieties have a pop ration of 1 cup of un-popped kernels to 44 cups popped whereas white varieties have a smaller pop ratio of 1 cup un-popped to 36 cups popped. Got all that? So much to learn!
Now, here’s the important stuff….what’s the best way to cook it and what’s the owner’s favorite topping? Brad likes the whirly popper on the stovetop, which is the way my dad likes to make it, too!
Here are Brad’s tips for making the best popcorn in a whirly popper:
- Use coconut or olive oil, making sure not to overheat.
- Add a few kernels and wait for those to pop. Once they’ve popped, add the remaining popcorn, swirl in the hot oil and remove from the heat for 30 seconds.
- Return to medium-high heat and wait for the fun to start!
- Favorite Tip – Just as the kernels begin to pop, put a tablespoon or so of butter in the pan. It will give just a hint of butter flavor without soggy pieces of popcorn!
- Favorite Topping – Brad prefers to keep it simple (I would tend to agree!). He likes to use a little popcorn salt which is a finer blend and sticks to the popcorn pieces better!
By the way, what’s YOUR favorite popcorn topping?