Hi everyone, Quay Lo here. Quay Po took the day off. It seems only fair to start by explaining the meaning of the word “Poppycock”. Here is what the Miriam Webster’s on-line dictionary notes:
noun \ˈpä-pē-ˌkäk\ informal + old-fashioned: foolish words or ideas :
: empty talk or writing : Nonsense
Examples of usage for POPPYCOCK
“The congressman imagined that he had given a great speech, one that speculated would be remembered in history, but he will more likely be remembered for uttering two hours of poppycock.”
“Starting with the cherry tree, much of what was written about George Washington's life by his early biographers was pure poppycock”
Origin of POPPYCOCK
Dutch dialect pappekak, literally, soft dung, from Dutch pap (soft) + kak (dung)
First Known Use: 1860s
So why in the world would I be talking about “Poppycock” in, of all places, a food blog? Given, as mentioned above, that it is an old fashioned term and its origin is scatological, and that it follows the well-established connection between words that mean dung, and words of beliefs, or assertions that are untrue or nonsensical. Let me explain. Firstly the word "poppycock" is largely an American term and in its American English sanitization of use, it became more a humorous expression used to describe the nonsensical, the absurd, or the outright fabrication. Nobody reallly cares about where the word came from or its relationship to the Dutch ward for dung. If you make this recipe you'll understand why that is a good thing.
How it came to be the name of a favorite confection of mine is a bit of a puzzle. The word "Poppycock" as a proper noun was first used by a man named Harold Vair, a Detroit candy shop owner. He was selecting a name for a snack he invented initially for his own use. He was looking for something that he himself would like to munch as he made automobile trips around his region. In 1960, the Lincoln Snack Company of Chicago (whose roots were in a Swiss firm called The Wander Co. founded in Berne in 1865), bought the rights to Poppycock, from Mr. Vair. I'm guessing he retired and munched on "poppycock" for the rest of his natural days. Several more corporate deals later and Poppycock is today made by the same Lincoln Snack Co which is presently owned by the huge food conglomerate ConAgra. It is a proud trademark in a huge family of products. Did I mention that it had been a favorite snack of mine? I didn’t consume a lot of it, as it is one of those sugary, buttery trifles with zero nutritional value, high calories, and huge amounts of pleasure value. In fact, I had not had any since well before I came to Malaysia. Imagine, then, my surprise to see it on the shelves of a local grocery here in Kuala Lumpur, a few years back. I quickly bought up four containers of the stuff and parsed it out like a scrooge saving pennies. Alas, it was a fleeting moment in my love affair with Poppycock as it disappeared again from local shelves. Slowly but surely Poppycock receded in my mind until just recently when I ran into an article about caramel corn. From that one article I did more searching. By time I had tired of it, I had learned that there are a million caramel corn recipes and almost as many companies that will ship to you (for a price of course) their version of “Gourmet” caramel corn. They almost always say that word in their name or their descriptions: “Gourmet”. Many of them add some nuts to their mix. Some of them added flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and even coffee. All of them were expensive. VERY expensive. But the one thing I noticed was that all those recipes I read featured pretty much the same recipe and instructions for the basic caramel corn. That was when I decided that making the caramel corn was easy, and that insinuating some nuts into the mix seemed to be just as easy. I ended up having to tweak the recipe a little but not much. A little extra step and the addition of some vanilla and some sea salt seemed in order. It wasn’t enough to alter the basic flavor profiles of roasted nuts, popped corn and caramel candy). If you want to add a favorite nut (no, I don't mean your husband), or drizzle tempered chocolate over the whole batch instead of working with hard caramel, feel free.
Poppycock Caramel Popcorn, Almonds, and Pecans
1 cup whole almonds
10 cups popped popcorn
2 cups brown sugar packed tightly
1 cup butter
1 cup corn syrup
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Medium course sea salt to taste
Place almonds and pecans on a cookie sheet and roast in an oven set to 150°C (300°F) for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.
Pop the popcorn (about ½ cup raw kernels to make 10 cups of popcorn), When finished add the popcorn to the nuts, (discarding uncooked kernels) and toss to distribute throughout.
In a heavy pot with a candy thermometer affixed or ready at the side, heat sugar, cream of tartar, butter, and corn syrup, bringing the contents up to hardball stage. Take away from heat and immediately add baking soda and vanilla, stirring to blend. Just as quickly pour caramel mix over the popcorn and nuts, tossing until the caramel is formed on all of the popcorn and nuts and large clumps begin to form. Wash and grease your hands with a bit of butter. Press the clumps into a cool cookie sheet so that contents are reasonably spread across the pan evenly (but not exactly). Sprinkle medium-course sea salt to taste. Allow to cool completely, then break apart with your fingers into smaller clumps of nuts and popcorn. Store in a zip lock bag or a large cookie container. Turn on a favorite movie and enjoy with a friend. (This snack goes especially well with a cup of tea or coffee)