Photos courtesy of Unika Noiel
Halloween is one of those rare times when an incurable case of the munchies is not only accepted, but encouraged. To stoke our sweet tooth to its furthest possible limits (and add a little green to the festivities), we teamed up with Seattle chef Unika Noiel — a celebrated soul food expert, and the culinary mind behind LUVN Kitchn.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Noiel finished college and started working for the City of Seattle’s government. But after coming to terms with the fact that cooking brought her more happiness than the 9-5 grind, Noiel put City Hall on hold and went to culinary school to pursue her passion, eventually finding her place in the Emerald City restaurant scene.
Inspired by her own experiences with infused food, Noiel quickly noticed a hole in the Evergreen State edible environment, and carved out a niche focused on the savory side of cannabis infusions, adding THC to soul food specialties like mac and cheese, cornbread, candied yams, fried chicken, and more.
Noiel still has a sweet side though, and in the spirit of tomorrow’s holiday, MERRY JANE talked with the Seattle chef to learn about creating infused sugar with cannabis tinctures, her recipe for THC-soaked caramel corn, and how soon is too soon to start preparing for an all-out “Danksgiving” feast.
Cannabis Caramel Corn
6 quarts (24 cups) popped popcorn
1/2 cup cannabis-infused sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter (two sticks)
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Place popcorn in a large glass or metal bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Place parchment paper on 2 large baking sheets, and spray well with pan spray. Set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, combine the cannabis sugar, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes. (Stay close to the stove with this one… if it boils over, you’ll have a sticky mess on your hands! Hot caramel sauce WILL burn you.)
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda; mix well. You’ll notice the caramel change colors.
5. Pour caramel over popcorn and stir until well-coated.
6. Pour caramel corn onto parchment lined baking sheets.
7. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
8. Let cool completely, then store in airtight containers and enjoy!
MERRY JANE: How did you first come to incorporate cannabis into your cooking?
Unika Noiel: My first edibles experience was so positive, it made me curious as to why! The more I learned about cannabis — it's properties and how it interacts with the human body — the more interested I became in finding new ways to introduce it to people. I started infusing everything I could think of.
This dish uses a cannabis-infused sugar, instead of butter or oil, to give the caramel corn an extra kick. How did you discover that sweet infusion?
I'm always looking to do something slightly different than what is expected. I feel cannabis infused butter is often overused, when there are so many other tasty options.
Last Fall, representatives from the Seattle city government put a damper on your cannabis-infused dinner series, "Fellowship.” Can you tell me more about how that situation unfolded?
LUVN Kitchn has entered into an agreement with the City of Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services and The Seattle City Attorney’s Office, agreeing not to host for-profit cannabis infused dinners in Seattle until we obtain a "Cannabis Business License." Currently, no such license exists, but as soon as it does, we'll get one! In the meantime, I'm focusing on education and teaching people how to infuse their own meals with cannabis... until the time comes when we can organize a Fellowship dinner again.
I know we’re not even past Halloween yet, but I’ve seen photos of your amazing “Danksgiving” feasts. Are you already starting to think about preparations for Turkey Day?
I am, as a matter of fact! Once you've had cannabis-infused, cajun-fried Turkey, it's hard to imagine the holidays without it! Candied yams, collard greens, cornbread, dressing… the works!
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