Kettle corn is a specific type of popcorn. Both kettle corn and plain popcorn are often available in packaged form in stores, and sometimes fresh at farmers' markets, movie theaters, fairs, and snack bars. Many people are familiar with popcorn in general, thanks to its popularity as a snack, and kettle corn is a familiar form of popcorn in some regions of the world, especially the United States.
Popcorn is made from a special variety of corn that has been bred to burst open and puff up when exposed to heat. There are a number of ways to make popcorn, including heating the kernels in an oiled pan or kettle, or popping whole ears over an open fire. When heated without the use of oil, popcorn is a very healthy snack, with a high fiber content. It is of Native American origin and has been made for centuries in the Americas. Along the way, many variations on plain popcorn were developed, with kettle corn being one of the earliest and most popular.
Kettle corn is traditionally made by making popcorn in a large iron kettle that has been oiled. After popping, the popcorn is tossed with salt and sugar to create a distinctive flavor, with the oil attracting the flavorings so that they don't fall off. Kettle corn and popcorn in general can be eaten hot or cold as a snack, with some people making large batches that are allowed to cool before being stored in airtight containers for future use.
Other popcorn flavorings include various cheesy versions, caramel corn, and popcorn dressed with spices ranging from chilies to cinnamon. Popcorn itself has a relatively neutral flavor, so a wide range of flavorings can be used with it, making it a very versatile snack food. Some markets carry a range of popcorn products, ranging from low-fat versions suitable for health-conscious consumers, to calorie-laden kettle and caramel corn. The key distinction between kettle corn and popcorn as a larger grouping is that kettle corn is not a very healthy snack, while popcorn can be, depending on how it is prepared.
Both types of popcorn verifiably emerged in the Americas. A wide variety of other flavored popcorns probably arose somewhere else. Tamari popcorn, for example, is a Japanese invention.