Sweet popcorn is widely known as kettle corn. It was a treat made as far back as Colonial times. Dried corn kernels, or popcorn, were cooked with a small amount of lard in an iron kettle over a wood fire. Once popped, a sweetener, such as sugar, honey or molasses, was added to the popcorn before being sprinkled with salt. Kettle corn is often found at fairs and festivals, though it is possible to make your own kettle corn at home in the microwave either by purchasing microwave kettle corn offered by brands such as Jolly Time, Act II or Prime Time or by using this method.
Pop the microwave popcorn according to package instructions. You will need to pop the bags one at a time. Once popped, pour the popcorn in a large, stainless steel bowl and place the bowl in the oven turned on to the "warm," or lowest possible setting.
Make the sweet syrup by melting the butter in a medium-sized saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the water and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes.
Remove the butter-sugar mixture from the heat. Pull the popcorn out of the oven. Working carefully, pour half the mixture over the popcorn in a slow drizzle. Stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon to distribute the coating. Repeat the process one more time with the rest of the butter-sugar mixture.
Cool the popcorn slightly. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary, especially if you started with a low-salt or salt-free microwave popcorn.
In addition to the butter-sugar syrup, experiment with adding flavours to your kettle corn for a special taste. Orange zest and dried cranberries add a citrusy, fall flavour, while a teaspoon of chilli powder gives the sweet and salty kettle corn a kick.
Be careful handling the butter-sugar syrup. Sugar syrups are very hot and can easily burn skin.