Any gathering becomes special when the tantalizing aroma of popping corn fills the air. For a school carnival, store opening, church bazaar, neighborhood block party or fundraiser, rent a popcorn machine to pop the mountains of popcorn needed. The best popcorn kernels for a large popcorn machine are those that pop up big and fluffy. With small-popping kernels, you need a lot more to get the same volume, and you'll be manning the popcorn machine for a much longer time.
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Butterfly popcorn pops into a distinctive, many-petaled shape. Monarch butterfly is a yellow-hulled butterfly variety that pops up large, fluffy and tender. The flavor is rich and silky. Its high yield makes it excellent for use in a large popcorn machine. Add 2 cups of kernels to the hopper with 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1 1/2 tsp. salt to produce several gallons of popped corn.
Mushroom flake popcorn pops into a flattened sphere with a craggy surface. It's usually used for caramel corn and for shipping in gift containers, but it also makes an excellent corn for fresh popping. Mushroom flake is a large-popping mushroom variety that is not as tender as butterfly, but has a bold taste and enjoyable crunch.
Thistle pink is an exceptionally large-popping butterfly variety. The name derives from its pink hull. The flavor is delicate, bordering on sweet. Mix thistle pink with monarch butterfly for visual interest. When the popcorn is popped, the shredded bits of hull still visible among the pillowy explosions of starch are subtly colorful.
Midnight blue popcorn is a butterfly variety with a dark blue hull that contrasts strikingly with its white flesh after popping. The flavor is mildly nutty. It doesn't pop up as large as some other varieties, but its coloring and flavor make it excellent for mixing in with larger-popping kernels when making big batches in a popcorn machine. Its tender hull is also a plus when mixed in with varieties whose hulls form sharper shards after popping.