From my Table: Half-Popped Kernels| January 17, 2023
We all have those foods that remind us of specific times and places, even though they’re really ordinary, everyday foods. For me, that very brittle and crispy, barely overdone popcorn-machine popcorn automatically connects me to Geulah on a Thursday evening.
And for good reason. One Thursday night when we were living in Israel my husband got into a cab leaving Geulah with a bunch of packages, among them a large plastic sleeve of popcorn. The cab driver pointed to the popcorn and asked, “Eich korim pupcorrin b’Anglit?” We all had a good laugh!
At one point during those years, we were introduced to a popcorn phenomenon we’d never known existed. Have you ever heard of Old Maid popcorn, also known as half-popped kernels? I don’t know if this is sold anywhere else, but there are a few places in Yerushalayim that will sell it to you in a little container slid under the counter as if it’s contraband, once they’ve made a bunch of batches of popcorn for Shabbos. They’re very crunchy kernels that are just slightly popped, and they have this fantastic texture.
Only a few batches are offered for sale, and I remember rushing to the store to make sure I got there in the little window of time that they were available; under the counter, of course.
I miss those uniquely Israeli Shabbos treats, even though freshly popped popcorn is sold everywhere now. Recently, I decided to try to recreate the Old Maid variety. I researched how to make half-popped kernels and made my own batch. We got a flashback to those clear little containers full of salty goodness, passed on with pride over something so simple yet satisfying, in a way that only an Israeli can pull off.
Food Editor, Family Table
Editor in Chief, Kosher.com
Half-Popped Kernels, aka Old Maid
Yes, it’s one extra step, but if you’re a little sensory with food and you like something hard and shattery, you’ll love these.
Boil 1 cup (see note) of raw kernels in water for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from water and lay out on a towel to dry. Make sure the kernels are fully dry.
Preheat a saucepan with 2 Tbsp oil. After a few minutes, pour the kernels into the pot with a generous sprinkle of salt and cover. Let them pop.
The popping will take longer than popcorn usually takes because of the pre-broil. Shake the pan every minute or so to ensure an even pop.
Note: You can boil more than one cup at a time, but you should still pop it in stages.
Math and Measure
These are cute little tools to have around in the kitchen, especially for kids who love to bake, and especially if they’re learning fractions in school!
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 827)
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