Kettle corn is an all-American favorite salty-sweet snack often sold at festivals, carnivals, and other events. But where did this flavor of popcorn come from and how did it grow in popularity?
Kettle corn dates back to the 18th century, its first documented appearance originating in Europe. European farmers would cook corn in large cast iron kettles over an open fire. Both lard and sugar were added while the popcorn was cooking, which resulted in a sweet snack that was often eaten at the end of the day. Thanks to the sugar in kettle corn, it was discovered during this time that kettle popcorn had a good shelf life.
German and European immigrants brought this sweet treat to America in the mid to late 1700s. In America, this snack was first referenced in the diaries of Dutch immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Kettle corn at this time was also made in Dutch ovens, in addition to cast iron kettles. During this time, kettle corn, much like today, was sold during festive occasions, such as fairs and festivals. Sometimes kettle corn was sweetened with honey rather than sugar.
In the early to mid 19th century, kettle corn was hugely popular in America, however it saw a lapse in widespread popularity in the 1900s. Nevertheless, kettle corn made its comeback in the 2000s, particularly at historical reenactments of the Civil War and similar events.
Today, kettle corn is still in touch with its roots, as the snack is sold during street fairs and festivals. Sometimes kettle corn is still made in the traditional way, with a cast iron kettle, but it can also be made in popcorn poppers or kettle-corn specific machines. You can also get kettle corn in convenience stores, supermarkets, or online stores, like Popcorn for the People.