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~ Say Cheese! Buttery Cheddar Cheese Popcorn!!! ~

IMG_5087On Monday I posted my recipe for caramel corn.  The idea "popped" into my head while watching the 1949 movie "Take Me Out to The Ballgame" on Sunday.  This fun-to-watch classic (staring Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Gene Kelly) reminded me that baseball season, 'America's favorite past time', got underway in April, and, April 6th was National Caramel Corn Day too.   It was a fun post to research, not because of the recipe (I already had that in my bag of tricks), but because of all of the fun historical trivia I learned about Cracker Jack... America's most famous ballpark snack next to roasted peanuts.   If you'd like to take a trip back in history to a kinder gentler time, ~ My Caramel Corn vs. Cracker Jack?  No Contest. ~ recipe can be found in Categories 2, 7, 17 & 20, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below!

This morning, to my delight, I had a cheese-y popcorn question waiting for me in my e-mails. After thinking about it, I decided to write this post, because it's a great follow up to caramel corn!

IMG_5009Q.  Anita asks:  Mel, I read your recipe for caramel corn, and, I plan to try it very soon. It looks delicious and I know my family will love it (I never knew it had to be baked)!  

I have a hot-air popcorn popper and it's a budget-friendly snack for me to keep on hand for my children (two boys and a girl ages 13, 11 and 8). They love store-bought cheese popcorn and repeatedly ask me to make it for them and all I seem to end up with is a time-wasting mess. Melted shredded cheddar cheese just makes the popcorn heavy and soggy.  I have had slightly better results sprinkling finely-grated Parmesan cheese on popcorn, but, all of the cheese flavor seems to end up in the bottom of the bowl instead of on the popcorn. Suggestions?  Thanks in advance for any easy, stress-free solution you can provide!

IMG_5037A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Anita, it's great to hear from you again, and, I feel your pain.  I raised three boys, and, a really good recipe for cheese popcorn eluded me for years as well.  Why? Because, like yourself, I assumed that cheese popcorn is made using real-deal cheese.  My epiphany occurred when my boys and I were meandering around a local street fair and stopped at a vendor's booth.  He was selling several varieties of "gourmet" popcorn.  Our timing was perfect, because one of his employees was stirring a powdery orange substance into a bowl of melted butter (for flavoring the popcorn).  The container read:  dried yellow cheddar cheese powder! Nowadays, I buy mine on via several manufacturer's, and, both yellow and white cheddar are options.  Minus the spices, it's the main ingredient in the foil envelope contained in boxed macaroni-and-cheese mixes too.  Lo and behold:  it makes awesome cheese popcorn!

This recipe is not an exact copy of the over-priced, over-salted, store-bought cheese popcorn we all love, but it is oh-so-close in texture and tastes way better too.  It is an ever-so-slightly softer version that delivers full-strength cheddar flavor in every bite.  It's a very special cheese-y indulgence.  It is super easy to make, but, there is a trick to it:  You've got to give it enough of time to cool off and dry out, until each kernel is loose from the others (just like the bagged stuff)!

Want cheese popcorn?  You've crossed over the eating-healthy-line  for today!  Move on:

IMG_5041Start by making the cheese sauce:

2  sticks salted butter, melted

1 cup yellow cheddar cheese powder

2  teaspoons dry English mustard

~ Step 1.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the cheddar cheese powder and mustard.  The cheese powder will NOT incorporate itself into the butter...

IMG_5044 IMG_5048 IMG_5049... While this looks strange, because the cheese powder appears  to be a gloppy mess, it is perfect. Turn the heat off, cover it and set aside. 

IMG_4834Next you'll need to pop some corn. You'll need 4 quarts, or:

16 cups popped, plain popcorn (no butter or salt added), from 8 tablespoons unpopped corn kernels, or:

3  3.2-ounce bags popped, plain microwave popcorn

IMG_4830Calculating popcorn:  If you are popping corn on the stovetop, 2 tablespoons of unpopped corn kernels will yield 4 cups of popcorn, so you'll need 8 tablespoons of corn kernels.  Follow the cooking instructions on the bag or container. If you're popping corn in a corn popper or hot-air popper, follow the manufacturer's instructions until you yield 16 cups. If you are microwaving popcorn, 3 bags is going to yield 18 cups, or, 2 more cups than you'll need.  Munch away, set it aside or just add the extra 2 cups to the recipe... it will not affect the outcome at all!

IMG_5062 IMG_5057~ Step 2. Place the popcorn in a big bowl. Pour the buttery, cheese-gloppy mixture over the top.  Using two large rubber spatulas (or even just your hands, which is honestly a lot easier), toss like you would a salad, until the popcorn is evenly coated and clinging together in small chunks.

IMG_5155Do not serve this popcorn just yet (unless you want it or like it somewhat ooey-gooey cheese-y, warm, and, a tad stuck together).

IMG_5106If you want it the texture of the store-bought stuff, loose and scoopable: transfer it to a flat work surface and cool to room temperature, tossing about every 15 minutes, until the popped kernels are all loose and separated, about 2 hours:

IMG_5076Say Cheese!  Buttery Cheddar Cheese Popcorn!!!:  Recipe yields 16 cups.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart saucepan w/lid; 8-quart stockpot w/lid, popcorn popper, hot-air popcorn popper or microwave; very large bowl; 2 large rubber spatulas

6a0120a8551282970b0134892e6577970c-800wiCook's Note:  Chili Dogs are America's #1 favorite ballpark food. ~ Mel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dog ~ recipe can be found in Categories 2, 10, 17 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


Carrie -- After doing 5 seconds of research on Amazon, I am pleased to report, many (most) are free of flour and gluten. Choose which one suits you and your price range. Hope this helps. ~ Melanie

Have a question, on the cheese popcorn, i am gluten free, is the powdered cheese free of flower and gluten?

Lisa -- The brand of cheddar cheese powder in this 2013 post and photo is Barry Farm. Another brand of excellent quality is Hoosier Hill Farm. Both are available at Amazon. Say cheese! ~ Melanie

May I ask what is the brand for Cheddar cheese ?

Chuck! You made me smile!

The old-fashioned popcorn maker is a great vintage addition!

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