When is Popcorn Day? Take your pick—there are three of them! Learn popcorn facts, and even how to make caramel popcorn. It’s not just for movies.
Is popcorn America’s favorite snack? Not even close. (According to one study, candy is #1; another says the top three are chips, chocolate and cheese.) Of course, American moviegoers would dispute this, as popcorn is the overwhelming choice for munching along with motion pictures…and they’re willing to pay exorbitant amounts for it.
Clearly popcorn is popular (no pun intended), as there are no fewer than three “holidays” dedicated to it:
January 19 is National Popcorn Day
March 9 is Popcorn Lover’s Day
April 7 is Caramel Popcorn Day
As a Wisconsin-based company, we think popcorn is pretty important, too; after all, Wisconsin grows a lot of it. We may not be the biggest popcorn producer—Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri are the top five—but we like to think we grow the best. So now that we have plenty of special occasions promoting popcorn, let’s explore some facts about this unique snack.
Popcorn (Zea mays everta), a member of the grass family, is one of six types of maize (corn). The others are sweet, dent (field corn), flour, pod, and flint. Of the six types, popcorn is the only one that pops.
Like the other types of corn, popcorn is a whole grain, consisting of a germ, endosperm, and pericarp (hull).
Why does popcorn pop?
Each hard kernel is filled with soft starch with a small drop of water at the center. Under heat, the drop of water expands, and the pressure causes the starch to explode, bursting the hard shell. Popcorn has a thicker hull than other types of corn, which is what allows enough pressure to build up to create the explosion.
Is popcorn bad for you?
Generally speaking, no. As a whole grain, popcorn is high in fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, 3 cups of popped popcorn contain 3.6 grams of fiber, or about what you get from 1 cup of cooked brown rice and more than you get from a medium banana or orange. And it’s lower in calories than most snack foods: air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup. If it’s popped in oil, it goes up to 55 calories per cup. It’s the toppings that can add up, though; buttered popcorn has 90 to 120 calories per cup.
Is popcorn gluten-free?
In its natural state, yes; popcorn is gluten-free. (While you may have heard the term “corn gluten”, celiac.com says it’s not the same as wheat gluten.) It’s the flavorings that can contain gluten, in the form of modified food starch or other ingredients.
If you’re gluten-sensitive, your best bet is to pop your own popcorn, and top it with the seasonings you would normally use. If you’re buying commercial popcorn, look for the words “contains wheat” on the ingredient statement. If it’s not there, chances are the product doesn’t contain gluten…but in order for a product to be labeled as “gluten-free”, it needs to meet the FDA requirement of having less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
How to Make Caramel Popcorn
If you’re looking to celebrate National Caramel Popcorn Day April 7, you can do your own. (As with most worthwhile things, it can be a little messy.) All you need are 4 quarts of popped popcorn, a few pantry staples, and this classic recipe from some of the manufacturers of said pantry staples. Since it’s from the manufacturers, you know it’s been professionally tested, which is why it’s so highly rated.
To make caramel popcorn balls: As your caramel popcorn is cooling, butter your hands and form it into balls instead of breaking it up. (Be sure to let it partially cool first, as it will be hot.)
The easiest popcorn of all: If you don’t want to make a mess in your kitchen and want to just send someone you love a nice popcorn gift in a decorative tin, we’re happy to help you out.