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Posted in Food Safety on January 19, 2019
Calling all popcorn lovers– you have your own day. I don’t know many people who don’t like this snack because it is so versatile. We love having a great movie night at home making our own popcorn and adding in fun extras but an even more fun time is getting some warm popcorn at a movie theater. Pretty much there is always room for popcorn and we are happy to know that next week this amazing snack food has a special day.
National Popcorn Day is celebrated at the end of January, although its exact date is a matter of debate. Various sources report it as January 19; others claim it takes place on whatever day the “big game” falls on. The Popcorn Board is often asked about the origins of this day; unfortunately, we do not know how or when this celebration began. Some other individual or organization (with obvious good taste) began this tradition.
Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually or 42 quarts per man, woman and child. It is one of the most wholesome and economical foods available.
According to The Popcorn Institute, approximately 70 percent is eaten in the home (home popped and pre-popped) and about 30 percent outside the home (theaters, stadiums, schools, etc.). Unpopped popcorn accounts for approximately 90 percent of sales for home consumption.
Major popcorn producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
The peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is the fall. Sales remain fairly high throughout the winter months then taper off during the spring and summer. Popcorn is a popular snack with all age groups.
Most of the popcorn consumed throughout the world is grown in the United States. Although world-wide sales of popcorn are steadily increasing, Americans consume more popcorn than the citizens of any other country.
Factors influencing popcorn quality include kernel moisture and expansion ratio, processing procedures, home storage and home handling.
To achieve the utmost in popability, the moisture content of popcorn should be from 13 percent to 14.5 percent; 13.5 percent is considered ideal. A moisture content over or under these percentages greatly reduces popability.
Processors consider the minimum expansion ratio for good popcorn to be 35 to 38 to one. However, some of today’s improved hybrids will expand over 40 times.
Good popcorn should provide at least 98 percent popped kernels with well under two percent “spinsters” or unpopped kernels. Proper care at the processing level helps to assure this. Processors guard against contamination and other types of kernel damage which could lower popcorn quality.
Because home storage and handling can affect the moisture content of popcorn — and therefore the popability — opened packages of raw kernels should be stored in airtight containers until used. Stay away from storing popcorn in the refrigerator. Air inside a refrigerator contains very little moisture and can cause the popcorn to dry out.
In the early 1980’s, microwave popcorn was born into the popcorn family. Today, more than 80% of U.S. consumers’ households own microwaves — that’s over 73 million microwaves in homes alone! Outside of the home, people of all ages enjoy the taste of warm, freshly popped popcorn, too. With the time and preparation convenience microwavable popcorn offers, you can see popcorn “poppin’ up” as an afternoon snack at work or afterschool, and in dormitories and hotel rooms. Microwavable popcorn also comes in a wide-variety of flavors including low fat, extra butter, and gourmet to satisfy all appetites.
Biblical accounts of “corn” stored in the pyramids of Egypt are misunderstood. The “corn” from the bible was probably barley. The mistake comes from a changed use of the word “corn,” which used to signify the most-used grain of a specific place. In England, “corn” was wheat, and in Scotland and Ireland the word referred to oats. Since maize was the common American “corn,” it took that name — and keeps it today.
It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.
Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagun writes: “And also a number of young women danced, having so vowed, a popcorn dance. As thick as tassels of maize were their popcorn garlands. And these they placed upon (the girls’) heads.” In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.
An early Spanish account of a ceremony honoring the Aztec gods who watched over fishermen reads: “They scattered before him parched corn, called momochitl, a kind of corn which bursts when parched and discloses its contents and makes itself look like a very white flower; they said these were hailstones given to the god of water.”
Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, “They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection.”
In South America, kernels of popcorn found in burial grounds in the coastal deserts of North Chile were so well preserved they would still pop even though they were 1,000 years old.
In our house we like to add candy, flavored seasonings (white cheddar is our favorite), peanuts, chocolate and pretty much anything to make a fun movie night even more rewarding. We will be making a special bowl of our favorite microwave treat on the 19th to celebrate in a large way the snack that has outlasted many many snacking trends.
By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)