Friday, July 27, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

July is usually one of the hotter months of the year. Most years, cool temperatures turn sullen and soggy, making everything wilt and everyone flee to cooler places. This July has been a welcome difference from previous years. Very few heat spikes and lots of refreshing breezes. Ask me how welcome this will be during the winter when there is a corresponding "coolness" to the deep freeze temperatures in January. I'll be looking back at July quite wistfully.

July is one of the busiest months of our year. With holidays, birthdays, summer events, and outings, it's been a blur. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Layering VBS with a day wading in the river and a bowling spree along side of a combined birthday party makes for some crazy busy days. We're all ready to kick back, relax, and enjoy the rest of summer.

When we first moved out here, Dog--born into metropolitan overpopulation--would ask when we were going to go to the park again. He was accustomed to a very small patch of green to run around mandatory, since there were grass spurs. The only places for a child with that much energy to explode safely was an already overcrowded city park. After a few times of hearing this question, I led him to his back door, pointed to the sandbox, swing set, play house, and patch of woods that shade the back portion of our acreage and informed him that he lives at the park. I'm reminded of a billboard down the road a ways from us: "I'm not on vacation....I live here!" Yep. That's us!

July is the month for camping out. I grew up camping out, so I suppose the camping gene is in the pool. Dog loves to camp out. Actually, all of the Hobbits do. The shine has worn off for me--Princess informs me that I'm too old...among other things--but Tool Guy remains diligent to indulge. He has lingering memories of wanting to camp out with his father while growing up and can never fail to accommodate them when weather permits. So he pulls out the tent, which stays up until camping season is over. Yeah, it kills all of the grass underneath it, but we're raising kids, not a lawn. The memories will linger much longer than the bare patch where they were made.

Snacks during camping out are mandatory. There's always the fries to fall back on, but--would you believe it?--even a Hobbit gets tired of fries. Popcorn is always a great camp out food. Pity it is off the menu. Still, I kicked around some possible substitutions. A few suggestions floated around the Internet, like popped amaranth. A little coconut oil heated in a skillet and let 'er pop. I tried this with sorghum, but it soaked up the oil significantly and left a lot of unpopped kernels. Then someone gifted me with a used hot air popcorn popper. I did delude myself into thinking that I could rid it of all of the cross-contamination from the corn. Yes, this was complete self-delusion. But what I did learn was that a hot air popper makes superior and outstanding popped sorghum. It's well worth the investment in a new and uncontaminated popper.

"Popcorn" Popped Sorghum

Presto (or similar model) hot air popcorn popper, preferably new and just out of the box
3/4 cup sorghum

The instructions say to fill with no more than 1/2 cup popcorn, but since sorghum is a smaller and lighter grain than corn, a little more is necessary to hold the kernels down long enough to heat and pop. Pour into plugged popper and cover. Wait patiently. It always feels like it is taking longer than necessary, but it will happen. As it pops, the finished grain may need a little encouragement with a spoon to come into the bowl.

Popped sorghum, to our palates, tastes just like popcorn and can accordingly be flavored according to tastes and tolerances. Just the sort of packable treat that makes a wonderful mess inside of a tent, while listening to the deer migrate by and wondering if the bear will visit this time. Who needs ghost stories?


Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy!!!!

Lois said...

Love Sorghum!!! Glad you discovered it! Love your blog and all the great recipes! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Anyone know of a place online to purchase sorghum for this purpose?

Loztnausten said...

Thanks for visiting, George! I get mine from These are some of the nicest people that you could buy from. Gerald there gives wonderful customer service, fast turnaround on orders, and I can't say enough good things about them, in addition to the fact that they have dedicated facilities. This is the only place that I buy sorghum from now.

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...

Wow, this is an incredible find for me!!! DD can't have corn due to multiple food sensitivities, but DS loves loves loves popcorn (he' s 20 months and it' s so cute how he says "kekorn"). Anyway, I have a rule with the kids that we "bear each other's burdens" and don't eat what another can't have (they are tots, I'm sure as they get older it will work itself out). Anyway, we do have an air popper and since she's not "allergic" per se, just sensitive, I'll take my chances.

We have a bunch of sorghum in the pantry and I was wondering what to use it for since we are basically grain-free now.

I always wondered if you could pop other things....

Thanks so much!


Loztnausten said...

Carrie, I've been thinking about your "bear one another's burdens" comment all morning. We do that, but I've never contextualized it that way.

Absolutely stellar. May I write about your comment in a future blog?

Lauren said...

Do you think this would work in a regular pan on the stove? (I've done that w/ popcorn in the past, but of course we're now corn free--this sounds awesome.)

Just want to add, you are now my fave blog (we are gluten/dairy/soy/corn/egg free and into traditional foods). I'm learning so much from you and excited to have found you!

Do you have a link to any of your other grain suppliers? I'm looking to buy whole grains (not cross contaminated) in bulk to grind myself.


Lauren :)

Loztnausten said...

Lauren, I've tried it stove-top in a pan and wasn't happy with the results. Much fewer popped than in the hot air and the end result was more "done" than in the hot air popper. But you could play around with it and see if you're happy with the results. :)

Most of my whole grains come from UNFI (United Buying Clubs) which is sells to cooperatives--you can set up your own buying club. These are not from dedicated facilities, but we've never had a bad reaction from them, nor have other canaries of my acquaintance, if that helps.

The sorghum comes from Twin Valley Mills and Gerald there is as personable as one could wish. Terrific product and terrific company!

Thanks for visiting and the delightful feedback!

Lauren said...

Thank you so much!! I'm going to try it!!


Paula said...

My son is allergic to both corn and sorghum. Do you know if this will work with any other GF grains??

Loztnausten said...

Paula, the original idea that inspired my sorghum popcorn was someone suggesting amaranth as a grain that could be popped. It was so teeny-small and I decided that sorghum looked a lot like popcorn, so went with that.

Amaranth might be something that you could try "cooking dangerously" with!

If you try it, report back about how it went. :)

Anonymous said...

Was directed to your site from a forum posting where I commented on an unfortunate amaranth experience. Basically the amaranth is so tiny it gets blow/sucked inside the popping mechanism of the popper, then will sit in side for a bit until it gets so hot it catches on fire. At least that is what happened to me!!! Cleared out my whole dorm in college. Very embarassing. I tried it on a stove later with no fires involved but it wasn't worth the effort IMO. Just because something CAN be popped doesn't mean it should!!!

I will have to try the sorghum, though - I am very intrigued. :-D

Loztnausten said...

Egads! What an experience! Thanks for reporting back about what happened to you. Think I'll rely on your Cooking Dangerously excursion to be my guide. We'll stick with sorghum!

Anonymous said...

I need help. I bought sorghum and am trying to pop it. I've tried it on the stove (very little popped), air popped more luck but still seemed like 3/4 of it didn't pop. My air popper was very old, like maybe 15 yr old, so I don't know if this was an issue. I tried one of those oil poppers where the blade on the bottom spins and you put a little oil in the bottom, more luck than the stove, less than the air popper. Any ideas, did I get a bad batch? I got one of those 30 lb buckets from Twin Valley Mills and would hate waste it, though I'm sure I could find other uses.

I'm getting very discouraged so anyone with tips/experience, please help me. I used to love popcorn before it sent me to the emergency room but so much work for so little seems like I must be doing something wrong.


Loztnausten said...

Amy, I get a lot of "old maids" with sorghum...probably more than with popcorn, but since popcorn isn't an option, so I put up with a larger-than-"usual" amount of wastage. The age of your popper might very well make a difference, but I don't have a basis of comparison from which to draw. My popper is a new one. From my experience, popping sorghum in oil yielded less popped kernels than hot air popping. Three quarters is pretty high, though, and probably higher than my wastage. You may want to consider a new popper.

I know that moisture content in the grain is key to popping success. I would imagine that as the grain ages, the moisture content declines and there will be more wastage as time goes by.

This is one point on which I tend to be philosophic, since, as I mentioned before, the choice is this or no "popcorn" at all. Hope you get some satisfying results!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the quick response, I'm glad to here other people getting a lot of "wastage" (going to try adding some to salads) but I will also try a new air popper as I looked and mine is 17 yr old. It was one my mother gave me that they never used any more.

I do agree that once I get this all figured out since popcorn is out of the question, the wastage is worth it. Thank you very much.


Loztnausten said...

No problem! If you figure out any improvements on the technique, be sure to report back! :)

Elizabeth said...

I was excited to find this post and the comments, not to mention your blog in general.

My maternal grandfather worked in sorghum research (in fact, he was knighted by the French government in the '70s for his work in it) and tried popping it when my mom was a little girl.

I strongly suspect my son is allergic to corn (and I know my brother is) so we're definitely going to give this a try. Thanks for the tips!

Scott English said...

Thanks for the info on how to pop sorghum! I'm getting some and trying it out hopefully soon. Will stop back by and let you know how my experience goes. :)

Mrs Bear said...

My sorghum didn't pop well. Any ideas? I just received, from UPS, my 30 pound pail of sorghum, from Twin Valley Mills. I took it straight to the kitchen, pulled my new Presto Pop Lite air popper out of the box, and tried popping the grain. Out of 3/4 cups of grain I only had 1/4 cup pop and it smoked a lot in the process. This seems like more "old maids" than you referred to. My only thought is that we are having a cold snap. The temperatures are in the teens and twenties. Maybe the grain was too cold? I set aside some to warm to room temp and will try again.

Loztnausten said...

Mrs. Bear, your suspicions run similar to mine. It is quite possible that the temperature made the difference. As a caveat, the process does smoke quite a deal and I have been known to go outside to do it.

When you try it in warmer temperatures, post back and lmk how it turned out!

Anonymous said...

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Joan Stepsen
High tech gadgets

Anonymous said...

I've been reading up some on popping rice, and one of the suggestions was to soak it first (though that was for stovetop popping with oil.) Still, might it help to keep the sorghum in a moist environment for a while?

Loztnausten said...

Well, considering that the moisture in the grain is the agent for causing it to pop under high heat, this makes absolute sense. What a wonderful idea!
Did the suggester say how long to soak?

Claire said...

There doesn't seem to be any benefit to soaking popping sorghum - as in, soaking the popping sorghum grains in water doesn't seem to make it pop any better.

I got some on a fluke (a free sample with another order) from and tried it and loved it. So I bought more.

I was happy with the popping ratio - probably 3/4 of it popped and what didn't pop was nice and toasty and crunchy so we ate it anyway. I read about soaking it here so I gave it a try but it didn't make any difference that I could tell- possibly a little worse actually.

We're a whole foods/organic family so I was glad the popping sorghum is organic or I wouldn't have even tried it in the first place. It's definitely a yummy different snack. I'd recommend it.