One thing leads to another, as they say, and this is certainly true of culinary history research. Yesterday I referred to a USDA Farmers’ Bulletin published in 1917. It was one of a collection of such bulletins in the digital library of the University of North Texas. Thankyou, UNT, I have had much fun playing in your archives.
Naturally, having come across this lovely resource, I could not help but do some rather random browsing. An Lo! And Behold,! In 1913 the USDA published a Farmers’ Bulletin (No. 553) on popcorn ! How much fun is that?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘popcorn’ has two meanings. Firstly, it refers to a specific variety of maize, ‘the dried kernels of which swell up and burst open with a small explosive sound when heated.’ Secondly, it refers to ‘the heated kernels of the popcorn served as a food snack.’ It is the latter type of popcorn that I am interested in today.
I have covered popcorn in previous posts. One story, focused on the microwave, had two recipes for popcorn balls from 1914 and 1861. The other was based a book called Nelson’s Pop Corn Recipes, published in 1916, and from which I chose the recipes for Potato and Pop Corn Balls and Pop Corn Cream Pudding. This fine little book also includes recipes for popcorn-based breakfast cereal, omelets, and hash, and for popcorn cooked with bacon as well as the more obvious candy and desserts. There are also a number of recipes for meat substitutes such as the following:
Pop Corn Roast.
Mix together two cupsful of bread crumbs, one-half a cupful of chopped nut meats and of popped ground corn – Nelson’s Pop Corn for Popping – half a cupful each of hot water and melted butter, one teaspoonful of onion juice, one teaspoonful of tomato catsup, one and one-half teaspoonfuls of salt, one saltspoonful of pepper and one beaten egg. When mixed thoroughly put into buttered mold and bake about an hour. Cover the first part of the time, then baste three times with hot butter. Turn into a hot dish, sprinkle with popped corn and serve with a brown sauce.
Nelson’s Pop Corn Recipes (Grinnel, Iowa, 1916) by Mary Hamilton Talbott
(“a well-known recipe writer for the leading periodicals.”)
It might be thought that the topic of popcorn would be exhausted, but USDA Farmers’ Bulletin No. 553 (1913) Popcorn for the Home, has one more treat which you might like.
Chocolate Pop Corn.
2 teacupfuls of white sugar.
½ cup of corn sirup.
2 ounces of chocolate.
1 cup of water.
Put these ingredients into a kettle and cook them until the sirup hardens when put in cold water. Pour over 4 quarts of crisp, freshly popped corn and stir well to insure the uniform coating of the kernels.
I'm assuming the recipe meant to grind up the popcorn after it was popped, otherwise it wouldn't have worked well. Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books mention popcorn on several occasions, so it was almost certainly a common food item in the 1800's. Personally, I prefer the partially popped kernels, known locally as "old maids".
Hello Kate. I assumed so too - recipes assumed a lot of knowledge back then. I have never heard of partially popped kernels known as 'Old Maids' - I love it!
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