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December 8, 2012. This might be the ultimate Better Cheaper Slower snack. Do-It-Yourself popcorn. I don’t mean just pop-it-yourself. I mean dry it, scrape it and pop it yourself. Couldn’t be fresher. Couldn’t be cheaper.

A few weeks ago, my CSA farm share included a few ears of corn. Corn that was picked two months earlier. Dried on benches in the farm’s big greenhouse. Given to us with the instruction to dry them indoors for another two weeks.

Time’s up. Time to scrape the kernels off the cobs. Put them in a big covered pot on the stove. With a teaspoon of butter or oil to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. Four minutes later, a huge pot of perfect popcorn. And another lesson in the value of doing things the old fashion Way.

Of course, fresh just-popped popcorn is so much Better than a bag of popcorn that’s been shipped, warehoused and put on a shelf at the supermarket. But really fresh popcorn – made with fresh-dried corn – is dramatically Better. Actually tastes like corn. Way, way Better than an aluminum foil pan of Jiffy Pop.

Let’s Do The Math
Your whole grain snack is Cheaper. What would you pay for a small ear of late-season corn? 25 cents? Surely not more than 50 cents. So what do you get for your pennies?

One small ear yielded just under a half-cup of dried kernels. About 3 ounces, net weight. After popping, that half-cup became a little more than 10 cups. About the same weight because you add air as you evaporate the moisture in the kernel.

One cup of popcorn – without butter, cheese, caramel or whatever you put on it – weighs in at less than one-third of an ounce and delivers 30 calories. Walk them off in 6 minutes. The butter’s on you.

Cost Comparison
If you stashed an ear in the closet for a few weeks and did your own scraping and popping, your homemade cost is about 10 cents per ounce (that’s 3 – 4 cups of popped corn). Let’s compare:

Bachman Popcorn (Air Popped, No Preservatives) comes in an 8-ounce bag for $3.49. That’s 44 cents per ounce. More than 4 times the cost of your own. Smartfood Popcorn isn’t a smart buy, either. $4.29 for 7.5 ounces. Ounce for ounce, almost 6 times more expensive than your own. Even pop-your-own Jiffy Pop costs $1.89 for 4.5 ounces. 42 cents per ounce. More than 4 times the price of your much Better stuff.

Now you tell me.
C’mon, Dick, corn season’s over almost everywhere. OK, maybe it won’t be local. But I’ll bet you can find some almost-fresh corn and put it out to dry. If not, you can buy some superior fresh-dried popping corn from Anson Mills. Really sweet, really corny. Already scraped off the cob and completely dried. Ready to pop. $5.95 for 12 ounces. Five times more expensive than the Cheaper Way. But even Better. I used theirs a couple of months ago in that addictively delicious, high-protein Pop Corn & Beans snack.

‘Tis The Season
Friends and family visiting. Hanukkah. Christmas. College Bowl games on TV. Bowls of snacks everywhere. Make it Better. Keep it Cheaper. Enjoy it Slower.

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