Grandma’s Popcorn Ball Recipe

There was a time, believe it or not, when trick-or-treaters would be rewarded with homemade treats instead of store bought snacks. Some of you may remember getting these in your goody bags as you ran through the neighborhood. While it may be frowned upon nowadays, these homemade goodies were a big part of the Halloween tradition in many families. And the king of them all was the popcorn ball.

Equal parts sweet, salty, crunchy, messy, and fun, everything about the popcorn ball is fantastic. As a kid, I would look forward to my Grandma’s popcorn balls all year. So, as we were getting the candy and costumes this year I decided to pull out my Grandma’s old recipes and whip up a batch of these old-fashioned sweets.

As I gathered the ingredients it was immediately obvious this wasn’t going to be a healthy recipe. I’m no dietitian, but if I had to guess each one of these balls has something like 4,000 calories. I rationalized this with the fact Halloween only comes once a year and soldiered on.

You are going to need about 12 cups of popped Black Jewell Popcorn for this recipe, and it needs to be unsalted and unbuttered. I used Original Black Kernels popped on the stovetop, but you could definitely use an air popper, or just grab some No Salt/No Oil Microwave Popcorn and don’t worry about it. As for the rest of the ingredients, the only change I made was that I didn’t have any table salt, so I used some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt instead. I don’t think it made a noticeable difference in the end product, but I doubt my Grandma had pink salt in mind when she wrote this recipe down.

Start by adding your margarine to a medium sized pot over medium heat. Let it melt down, then add your powdered sugar, marshmallows, corn syrup, and salt.

Bring it to a boil while stirring constantly and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and stir in your vanilla and baking soda. After they’re all mixed in pour it immediately over your popcorn.

Now comes the fun part. You need to make sure every piece of popcorn is coated, and the easiest way to do that is with your hands. What I did was take a couple of plastic sandwich bags, spray them with cooking spray, and wore them like gloves. Worked like a charm.

Once you have your popcorn mixture packed firmly into ball-ish shapes set them on wax paper, or plastic wrap and let them cool. Then you can wrap them however you like (I opted to just wrap them in plastic wrap like Grandma did), and enjoy.

Overall, this was a fun recipe to make, and it’s a great one to make with the kids. The taste really brought me back to being a kid again. However, anything can be improved upon. Try adding chocolate chunks, some cinnamon, or putting it on a stick and dipping it in caramel. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!


  • 12 Cups Popped Black Jewell Popcorn
  • 1 Cup Marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Margarine
  • 1/4 TSP Salt
  • 1/4 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1/2 TSP Pure Vanilla Extract


On The Road with Black Jewell – KeHE Holiday Show

We were back on the road for the KeHE Holiday Show which was held on June 12-13 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. KeHE is one of the largest distributors of natural and specialty food items in the U.S. and they happen to be our largest distributor among the several we utilize to get our products to stores. Many of Black Jewell’s retailers across the U.S are serviced through KeHE, including chains such as Publix and Albertson’s-Safeway. In addition to the chains, KeHE also helps us get our products into numerous independent retailers.

About the KeHE Holiday Show

A distributor show is very different from an industry trade show like Sweets & Snacks or Expo West. A distributor show is very much a “selling” show. So booth set-ups are less about the “story of Black Jewell,” but are more about the brand and the products. Order taking at this show is very structured, with KeHE providing each vendor an iPad pre-loaded with items, pricing, and various options for entering promotions. Shows like this are a lot more work than typical trade shows as well. We even attended training sessions the day before the show to make sure we were fully versed in the use of the iPad and how we enter orders. It was important training as we were taking orders from existing customers, and doing our best to attract new retailers.


Black Jewell was in a standard 10×10 booth highlighting our brands and products. Because this was a selling show, we also set-up and showed some of our floor displays available to retailers. The photo below shows our booth set-up at the show.

The KeHE Holiday Show is just like the other shows we attend in one way, however. Because once it opens the activity is constant, and we have the opportunity to talk to a lot of retailers, and present our brands to a lot of people in a very short period of time. We also sampled our new Null Hull ready-to-eat popcorn in both Sea Salt and White Cheddar flavors.

Introducing Family Farm Grown

Another great part of the show was the unveiling of our new Family Farm Grown brand of popcorn items. Family Farm Grown is focused on the multi-generational family farmers who grow our popcorn, and makes letting consumers know where their food comes from a central focus. On the Family Farm Grown website you can read their stories, see where their farms are located, and view pictures from the planting season.

A selection of the Family Farm Grown brand of popcorn products at our booth at the KeHE Holiday Show 2017

As KeHE is our first distributor to come on board, we thought it was a great time to unveil the new brand. We’ll be bringing the Family Farm Grown brand to KeHE in August when we participate in the New@KeHE program.  This will helps us market the introduction of new items to retailers with some aggressive promotions.

Wrapping Up

As we follow up on contacts made during the show, we have some encouraging prospects for our Family Farm Grown brand.  For example, one large retailer in Texas has expressed serious interest, and plans to bring the brand into their stores.  As for Black Jewell Popcorn, our sales at this show far exceeded our expectations, and were much higher than last year’s show!  So the growth of Black Jewell continues.

Where To Find Us Next

Our next show will take us to Amarillo, Texas in August for a 1-day show with a possible new distributor for Black Jewell Popcorn called Affiliated Foods.  This distributor has strong interest in making our popcorn available to their over 500 stores located in the Southwest. We’ll also be attending the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis event this Sunday at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN.

Keep following the blog to see where I’ll pop up next!


(Barry Johnson, President & COO of Black Jewell, regularly attends industry events, shows, expos, conventions, and so on to promote Black Jewell popcorn and spread the story of our unique kernels.)

On The Road With Black Jewell – Sweets & Snacks

About Sweets & Snacks

On May 23-25, Black Jewell Popcorn exhibited at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago. With over 800 vendors covering approximately 4 acres of exhibit space, Sweets & Snacks is a “must attend” event for the food industry. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the show and was attended by over 17,000 people. For Black Jewell Popcorn, after a successful debut in 2016, this marked our 2nd time exhibiting at the event.

What do attendees see at the show?  Well, Sweets & Snacks pretty much sums it up.  From the largest candy and chocolate companies like Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Wrigley, to jerky, snack bars, and, of course, popcorn. Actually, there were over 80 popcorn companies at the expo this year! Can you believe it? That means 1 in every 10 vendors at the show was showing and sampling some form of popcorn.


Black Jewell Booth Setup
Finished booth setup for the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo!

Black Jewell set-up shop in a 10×10 booth that highlighted all of our brands and items. Once the expo opened I had non-stop activity, and, because you never know when a large company buyer might come by, I was in the booth presenting the entire time. To most people, 3 solid days of being on your feet presenting your product repeatedly sounds awful. But, honestly, it was a lot of fun (though I did go to bed exhausted every night). I met tons of great people, spread our story, and got a chance to watch their reactions after tasting the difference of Black Jewell.

As usual, our most popular popcorn was our Original Black heirloom popcorn. Seems word of our unique popcorn that starts as a small black kernel and pops up pure white, with a crunchy texture, is getting out to more and more people. Plus, we were sampling our new Null Hull ready-to-eat popcorn in both Sea Salt and White Cheddar flavors. It was close but I think more people opted for the White Cheddar at this particular show. We were in very close proximity to some other popcorn companies handing out samples and it was always very satisfying to get a response from someone who happened to be trying our Null Hull along with someone else’s popcorn. Responses of “wow,” and “oh wow,” and “wow, just wow” are not uncommon. Of course, if you have eaten our popcorn, you know this already.

Stacking Up

Some of you probably wonder how a company like Black Jewell could gain attention at a show this large, with so many large companies presenting, and such a large number of popcorn options. Well, here’s an interesting stat. The folks who run the show tell the exhibitors in advance how many attendees searched for their brand, and rank you overall and in your category. Black Jewell ranked 144th overall out of the over 800 companies in terms of attendee interest in the brand and we ranked 20th out of the over 80 popcorn brands in attendance!  So, yeah…I’d say we did pretty good.

After the show, we started conversations with some new national retailers who recognize the difference of our popcorn, and it’s something they believe their customers will be interested in. We also met with some of our existing retailers, who have been a huge help spreading the popularity of our products. In fact, just after the show one of our retailers placed an order with us that will represent our largest order of the year so far! So, the growth of Black Jewell continues.

Where To Find Us Next

Now we are getting ready for the Holiday Show with our largest distributor, KeHE.  We will be in Minneapolis on June 12-13, 2017 telling our story, and sampling our popcorn for buyers.

Keep following the blog to see where I’ll pop up next!


(Barry Johnson, President & COO of Black Jewell, regularly attends industry events, shows, expos, conventions, and so on to promote Black Jewell popcorn and spread the story of our unique kernels.)

The Importance of Antioxidants

More Antioxidant Power Than Any Other Brand

Like most people, you have probably heard a lot in the past few years about antioxidants and how important they can be to your health. You can’t pick up a magazine, turn on the radio, or watch a Morning Talk Show without someone touting the benefits of an antioxidant rich diet. However, unlike some of the other things the media talks about, the power of antioxidants has real science behind it.

Antioxidants fight Free Radicals in your body. These come from disruptions in natural oxidation processes, the foods you eat, and even the air you breathe. If left unchecked they can cause damage to your cells, and even to your DNA. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, preventing them from causing any damage.

The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, and naturally dark colored fruits and vegetables have the highest concentration of specific antioxidant compounds. For example, the unique dark color of Black Jewell Original Black kernels make them rich in both polyphenols and anthocyanins (an antioxidant flavonoid). In fact, our Original Black kernels have over 80 mg of these antioxidants combined, per serving (more than any other popcorn on the market)!

We always try to make the healthiest decisions for our families, and one of the easiest is to replace unhealthy items with healthier alternatives. The antioxidant power of our Original Black kernels is just one more reason why Black Jewell is the smart choice for you and your loved ones.

Soil Temperature & Waiting for the Optimal Conditions

When it Comes to Popcorn, Patience is a Virtue

As the weather starts to get warmer, and the sun shines a bit longer, we all start feeling a little impatient. We want to get outside. Maybe you’ve thought all winter about your garden. We have too. Only on a much bigger scale. But a little patience now will get you big rewards later.

Here in the Heartland, Black Jewell grows the World’s Finest Heritage Popcorns, weather can change in an instant. Young corn shoots are incredibly susceptible to frost damage. Talk to any farmer in the area and they’ll tell you a horror story about a late season snow that wiped out an otherwise healthy young crop. So it is important to wait until after all chance of cold snaps and below freezing night have passed.

Our family farmers take great pride in their crops. They are out in the fields every day checking the conditions. Much like other corn, ideally you want a soil temperature around 60°F maintained for several days. They are also looking for a soil PH of 6.0, a high nitrogen content, and soil which is moist, but not too wet. Things aren’t quite there yet, with soil temperatures of only 54°F,and some recent heavy rains, but we’re getting close. Very, very close.

Remember though, while our farmers have to wait to get into the fields and start planting, you get to enjoy delicious Black Jewell popcorn year round. Lucky you.

What makes Original Black so special?

It’s All About The Kernels

The difference between Black Jewell kernels is obvious from even the quickest glance. Unlike the typical yellow or white popcorn you see loaded on your shelves at the local supermarket, the vibrant colors of our popcorn varieties stick out. Our most popular kernel, and the one which is the most striking, is our Original Black. But is there a real difference between our heritage black popcorn and the standard yellow corn you’re used to, or is the difference only hull deep? To answer this question, and to truly understand the amazing differences between the two, we need to start at the beginning.

Almost all of the popcorn grown (around 95%) is of the yellow variety, but why is that?  Why does every major popcorn brand use, essentially, the exact same corn? Well, like most fruits and vegetables you’ll find in your local supermarket, popcorn has been bred over the years to be easy to grow and harvest, store for long periods of time, and look a certain way. Yellow popcorn kernels are very large, have thick hulls, and pop very big and dense. Just like with mass-produced tomatoes, this selective breeding is often done at the sacrifice of flavor. As anyone who has ever grown tomatoes in their home gardens can verify.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are our Original Black kernels. This heirloom strain was all but forgotten before Black Jewell began growing it to sell to local markets in 1963. Unlike the common yellow corn, our Original Black kernels are very small, and have a thin, light hull which disintegrates when popped. This means no more pesky hulls getting stuck in your teeth. They also create smaller, flakier pieces of popcorn with a slight crunch and a huge flavor.

Make sure to tell your local grocer to carry Black Jewell Original Black kernels. Once you’ve tasted the difference we’re sure you won’t be able to go back to the typical, boring yellow corn you’re used to.