A corny but clever business keeps popping

Many Yukoners know Katie Young as that woman engulfed in a thick plume of smoke, wearing a welding helmet, protective mitts, suit, and boots. 

Many Yukoners know Katie Young as that woman engulfed in a thick plume of smoke, wearing a welding helmet, protective mitts, suit, and boots.

Despite having to dodge burning bits, Young isn’t a volcanologist or a steel worker.

She is the kettle corn lady – Katie Corn, as people call her.

Young started selling kettle corn with her friend Rhianna Rasmussen in 2010 at the Dawson City Music Festival.

Back then it was just a pop-up shop.

A friend of hers had seen a similar set-up at a festival in Vancouver and the pair decided to try it.

Today, Young sells her Klondike Kettle Corn year-round at a local grocery store and at the Fireweed Community Market.

It’s also become a go-to food for fundraisers, graduation parties and even weddings.

“It was a hit right off the bat,” she said.

At the Fireweed Community Market and in the parking lot of Wyke’s Your Independent Grocer, the smell of caramelizing kernels cooking in canola oil and sugar is enough to throw off that carefully planned grocery list that only included greens.

It’s been quite a show to watch, too – especially before she invested in an automatic stirrer and a collapsible lid.

She had to suit up – head to toes – and using a wooden paddleboard she stirred the kernels so they wouldn’t burn.

“It was crazy with the paddle,” she said.

“Hot kernels would often fly out of the kettle and being covered in melted sugar and hot oil, they definitely left their mark.”

The entire scene could be a bit overwhelming at times.

“Kernels are flying everywhere, everyone is trying to take pictures of it at the market, people are getting burnt by kernels flying out of there… we’re happy to have a lid now.”

It’s a small operation, with only Young and her friend Jessyca Gutt doing all the work.

But the nature of the work allows her to take care of her two young children.

Jack, 4, and Cody, 3, were born around the time Young started her business.

“They’ve been raised on popcorn,” said Young with a chuckle.

For the first time this year her popcorn was available year-round at Wyke’s.

During the winter time, she sets up a shop at her home with the doors wide open to allow for air circulation.

To make the popcorn, Young uses a 160-quart kettle she got shipped from Oregon.

That’s about 151 litres, the capacity of the average bathtub.

Two quarts of kernels thrown into sizzling canola yields about six large bags of popcorn.

Sugar is added right before the kernels have popped.

Once the kernels are ready, Young dumps them in a sorting bin that filters the unpopped kernels.

Then she sprinkles it with salt, and it’s ready.

Young doesn’t know exactly how much corn she went through in 2015.

But to give a general idea of how successful her business has been, she now makes orders by the tonne, and she’s made more than one order over the past year.

As her business is thriving, her corn has become available across the territory.

Recently she sent two recycling-size boxes of popcorn to Dawson City for an event put on by Yukon Women in Mining.

At Christmas last year she donated a large box to Old Crow that the RCMP flew up.

“It’s pretty fun knowing our kettle corn is being flown all over the territory,” she said.

Greater availability is basically the only thing that has changed for the product.

“We haven’t changed the recipe, the price, we haven’t changed anything since we started back in 2010,” said Young.

Young’s Klondike Kettle Corn can be watched, bought and eaten at the Fireweed Community Market held every Thursday and Saturday.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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