Saturday, November 24, 2012

Indiana Popcorn at the Ford Farm

Last I checked, it was April since I posted to Fridays With The Fords.  I've had quite a bit I've been dedicating my time to this past summer and fall that's been keeping me from blogging. Maybe I'll get around to posting what I can about some of these adventures in volunteering and consulting work.  Until then, I'll warm back up with some talk about popcorn. Fun fact, Indiana is the second largest popcorn provider and the 2013 Indiana State Fair theme is, "the year of popcorn."  We've been in the know about Indiana popcorn production as the farmer leasing our farm land has been growing popcorn in his rotation for a couple of years now.  As a result, we've taken to scouring the fields after harvest for our personal popcorn stash and learning how to prepare some really good stove top popcorn.

Popcorn, as a different strain, has different properties that make it different than feed corn or the corn that's used in nearly every aspect of your McDonald's experience.  Of note, the moisture content requirements are different and the harvesting considerations.  Because of the late rain in the season, the popcorn in our fields held a higher than desired moisture content and was harvested only last week!  

What surprised me the most was the fact that accepted yields in popcorn are about half of standard "dent" corn.  This is partially due to the way the plant grows, but also is due in part to harvesting methods that leave sizable amounts of perfectly usable corn on the ground.  Ball park estimates around here are that about 20% of what's grown lays on the ground after harvest. It's essentially given back to the land and animals and considered acceptable loss.  Harvesting popcorn requires additional care so as to not damage the kernel.  Damaging the kernel releases the trapped moisture that, when heated, pops the corn.  What's left is quite possibly a literal ton of popcorn laying in the fields around our farm. So, we take to the fields with buckets and gather what we can.  

buckets and buckets of popcorn

Over the years, we've found that we can just leave it unshelled in a dark, dry place for a month or so before shelling.  Hand shelling, as it turns out, is the best way to ensure minimal seed damage. As you would imagine, it's also the most inefficient means to shell corn.  For large commercial producers, it's shelled as its harvested and then dried with forced hot air.  But for our needs, we'll shell it by hand (or with a hand tool) and cook it over the stove.  Later, I'll post my recipe/process for popping corn over the stove.  I don't cook or prepare a lot of food I would consider delicious (I usually stick to the dishes).  But my stove top popcorn is salty, buttery perfection without the unpronounceable ingredients in microwave popcorn.  It ensures my status as corn-fed Hoosier like few others.     

The farm

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