Several days ago, after a little experimentation with various flavor combinations, I made two batches of the best herbed popcorn ever! It was sooo good, the family nibblers completely polished it off. So, today I made two batches more. Frankly, I’m not always crazy about herbed popcorns. Some versions detract from or overpower the comforting corn taste. But here the herbs simply heighten and amplify the popcorn goodness. Which is exactly what I was going for! Almost nobody can eat just one handful of this herbed popcorn–or even two–so the basic batch is large. It’s savory enough that the unique fresh taste and aroma stand out, yet light enough that snackers keep craving more.
Inspiration came from the herbs that are in season and at their peak in the garden now. My culinary lavender is blooming profusely, so I’ve been happily harvesting some spikes every few days. (The pic shows me harvesting my very first bunch of culinary lavender of the season. The variety is called ‘Folgate,’ and it’s excellent in this recipe fresh or dried.) If you’ve only tried lavender in shortbread or sweets, you might be surprised that it goes so well in savory recipes. But it does have some wonderful herbal properties, and this popcorn recipe shows them off.
My chives, which I’ve been subbing for onions in all kinds of dishes are just finishing blooming. But I’ll be snipping and using the blade-like leaves all summer long. My culinary thyme is not at its peak yet, so mostly I’ve been depending on dried thyme from my spice rack. It is both tasty and convenient, but I’m betting that the fresh is going to be even better.
Besides using only fresh chives in the recipe, one key to the irresistible flavor of this herbed popcorn is the added hit of freshly grated lemon zest and minced fresh garlic (if desired). Note that it’s fine to use either fresh or dried culinary lavender, just don’t leave it out. The other key is combining all the ingredients with the warmed butter and letting it infuse a few minutes before drizzling it over the popped corn. This allows time for the butter to become full of the mingled herb and lemon flavor–a simple but important step.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- ¼ teaspoon fine flake sea salt, plus more to taste, optional
- 1¼ to 1½ teaspoons fresh finely chopped culinary lavender or finely chopped dried culinary lavender buds
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (yellow part of the skin)
- ⅛ teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic, optional
- Fresh lavender and chive “bloomlets” for garnish, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or corn oil or safflower oil)
- ¼ teaspoon fine flake sea salt, to taste
- ⅔ cup unpopped popcorn kernels
- For the butter: In a medium saucepan over medium heat stir together the butter and salt. Once the butter melts, stir in the lavender, chives, thyme, lemon zest, and garlic (if using). Continue heating, stirring, until the mixture is very hot but not boiling, then immediately remove from the heat. Let stand so flavors can mingle at least15 minutes and preferably 30 minutes. Or make ahead and refrigerate, covered, for several days. Reheat the butter over low heat just until melted when needed for the popped corn. If desired, double the seasoning butter recipe and make enough for 2 batches of popcorn.
- For the popcorn: Put the oil, salt, and 3 or 4 test kernels in a large, flat-bottomed pot (minimum 5-6-quart) over medium high heat. Cook until the oil is hot and a test kernel sizzles then pops. (The oil should not smoke; if it does, remove the pot from the burner and lower the heat.) Immediately add the rest of the popcorn. Cover the pot and shake several times to coat all the kernels with oil. When the popping starts, frequently shake the pot back and forth to keep the kernels moving. After about a minute of heavy popping, turn the heat to medium; this keeps the pot from overheating and burning the last kernels. When the popping subsides, remove the pan from the stove-top; the heat in the pot will pop the remaining kernels. Using a large spoon, stir the corn while drizzling on the melted herb butter. Continue stirring, until the butter is evenly incorporated throughout. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Serve or let cool and pack airtight.
If you happen to have just picked chive and lavender “bloomlets,” it’s a fun to strew them over the popcorn just before serving. They add bright little pings of flavor and color, plus extra sprightly aroma to the nose.
Other lavender and chive recipes to try: