Now that I have a bit more time to do stuff, what with recent blogging projects done (again: PHEW), I thought I would give the sorghum popping experiment from a few years ago one last revisit. As you (and the various commenters who have visited) may remember, this experiment did not go too well for me: popping it in a still or shaken pot yielded few kernels, and using the hot air popper just caused a big mess of, again, mostly unpopped, slightly toasted sorghum kernels. I say "slightly" because most were blown out of the hot air popper before I knew what hit me. (Scratch that: the sorghum hit me. Literally.)
Based on research I've done lately, including from links provided by several of the commenters in the first post, I've come to a few conclusions about what went wrong:
- Some folks had suggested adding moisture to the seeds. Perhaps the seeds I used were kind of low quality and a bit desiccated already.
- Maybe use a dome popper. One gentleman from Texas said he and his have been popping it for a few decades, and he uses this method.
- Another commenter from Georgia notes that of all the things she tried, putting the sorghum in a deep pot with the lid on got her the best results, specifically if you turn down the heat in the last munite way low.
- Growing your own sorghum might work out well for you. Check out the many mail-order non-GM seed companies (one list is here, or else just do a Google search).
The sorghum I used in this experiment was a brand new bag of Shiloh Farms Sorghum Grain. This stuff is not as easy to find as I remembered - even many of the natural food markets were out of stock of this stuff (though they do normally carry it), but I did find it eventually at the Natural Market in Timonium, where I figured their big shelf of whole grains had it nestled in there somewhere. In fact, they had a few bags of it.
Oh, and this time I took photos.
I had started with a bag that was a few years old, with pretty lackluster results, prompting my search for fresher stuff. Maybe one or two kernels popped out of an entire 1/4 cup. There is my first thing I learned: use fresh ones.
I set up a few experiments on my stovetop. I gathered the following things for this round of experiments:
- bag fresh sorghum (here: Shiloh Farms brand)
- olive oil
- 1/4 measuring cup and teaspoon
- long wooden spoon
- cast iron crock pot and deep sided stainless steel pot (this latter one yielded the best results)
...and dumped in a quarter cup of sorghum. It may not have been as "shimmering" as I needed, because it didn't start popping for at least 20 seconds.
I might have also used more oil than I needed. I wonder if maybe I almost "deep-fried" the sorghum, in a sense?
At any rate, I wound up with very few popped kernels of sorghum.
For the next quarter cup of sorghum, the only difference was a lack of oil. The results are on the right: substantially more sorghum kernels popped than with the oil. With that, I decided I would likely have the most luck by leaving out the oil and just dry-popping the sorghum.
After all these years, you might be surprised that I do not, in fact, own a stainless steel stock pot. I do now. Seventeen bucks at Target.
First, heat your pot for a minute or two on medium. Dumping the sorghum into a cold pot will not help pop your sorghum. Shake the pot to distribute the sorghum evenly, and turn down the flame to low.
The kernels started popping pretty quickly, and with constant stirring I got lots of sorghum hitting me in the hand.
The result is the bottom plate: over half of the kernels popped, though the ones that didn't really didn't, becoming even more scorched than with the other methods.
I also tried popping sorghum with the lid and no stirring, just maybe occasionally shaking the pot.
With this method, it is again important to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
With the lid on, I got a few kernels and a lot of smoke.
Still, this method gave me results that were better than those in the cast-iron skillet, though I also got a lot of scorched kernels.
One final thing I tried was popping amaranth. I understand that you can do this as well, and whatever the case it is easier to do. As with the sorghum I found a video for it, courtesy of Oldways and the Whole Grains Council, neither of which I knew existed but both of whose existences do not surprise me.
Apparently, amaranth is easier to find in the Baltimore area than sorghum. It is particularly easy to find in bulk. The Natural Market in Towson and MOM's in Timonium carry this in bulk. I got this one at MOM's.
For the amaranth, make sure you even it all out at the bottom of the pot. Note: I really am using waaaaaaay too much in this photo. This is a quarter cup. But it still started popping immediately.
I got a significant amount of popped amaranth. It was kind of adorable, almost like "Barbie Popcorn".
I also tried covering the amaranth and not stirring it. This time I only did an eighth of a cup. Again this was too much.
And again, lot of tiny, tiny popped amaranth seeds.
So I have finally found that I have had the most success with popping sorghum if I do the following:
- use small amounts of sorghum (and amaranth for that matter)
- dry pop it instead of using oil
- use a light-colored vessel, specifically a stainless steel pot
- constantly stir it instead of leaving it to pop all on its own
- heat the pot first, keep it on medium until the kernels get to popping, and then turn down the heat to low.