Our air popper died on us several weeks ago, and we've been missing this staple snack around our house. So this week we pulled out the Dutch oven and tried our hand at popping popcorn like our intrepid pioneer ancestors.
Next to bannock, this is probably the easiest thing you'll ever cook over a fire. All you need is a Dutch oven, cooking oil, and a good-quality popping corn, plus a hot, hot fire. We cooked ours over a log fire, but briquets work as well and may provide a more even cooking experience.
Start by pouring about 1/4 to 1/3 cups oil in your Dutch oven. We used coconut oil, but you could also use vegetable, grapeseed, or canola as well. (Olive oil doesn't do as well at such high temperatures.) Coat the bottom and sides with oil and set the Dutch oven over the hot fire to warm for a while, anywhere from 10-15 minutes. You can drop a few test kernels in and wait for them to pop before pouring in the rest of the corn, about 3/4 cup. Or, if you're impatient like us, dump in the whole lot from the beginning.
Then you just wait. You can check periodically, but chances are you'll start hearing the corn popping after a little while. Once it starts popping, rotate the Dutch oven a quarter turn about every minute or so to keep the heat even, and to prevent burning. Check periodically to make sure the popcorn isn't scorching. When the popping begins to slow, pull the Dutch oven off the fire and transfer to popcorn to a stainless steel bowl. The popped corn will be super hot, so I wouldn't recommend a plastic bowl.
Season with salt, butter, or whatever else you like to put on popcorn. Then prepare for a treat, because this doesn't taste like any popcorn you've ever eaten. It has an earthy, nutty taste that will keep the entire family coming back for more.
The great thing about Dutch oven popcorn is that it can be done over a stovetop as well. So if you don't have access to a firepit or want to cook up a batch during the winter, it can easily be transferred inside. Dutch oven popcorn all year long—that's something your boys will appreciate.