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Corn nuts, also known as toasted corn or corn bits, is a snack food made of roasted or deep-fried corn kernels. In parts of South America, including Peru and Colombia, it is referred to as cancha.
Corn nuts are prepared by soaking whole corn kernels in water for three days, then deep-frying them in oil until they are hard and brittle. The kernels are soaked because they shrink during the harvesting and cleaning process, and rehydration returns them to their original size.
Albert Holloway invented corn nuts in 1936. He originally sold them to tavern owners to be given away free to their patrons as a snack that would be great with beer, calling them Olin's Brown Jug Toasted Corn.
In the 1990s, Corn Nuts released its famous "Bust a Nut" radio campaign, which was pulled from the airwaves on some radio stations after complaints. The advertisement can be heard here: Corn Nuts - Bust a Nut Radio Advertisement.
Holloway later renamed his product CornNuts. After Holloway and his sons Maurice and Rich learned of a breed of corn grown in Cusco, Peru (often referred to as Cuzco corn) that grew large kernels (some said to have been bigger than a U.S. quarter coin), the company researched developing a hybrid of the Cusco corn that could be grown effectively in California. After a decade of research, the company introduced CornNuts made with the hybrid variety in 1964. CornNuts sold on the market today are no longer of the large Cusco corn size.
The most popular brand, CornNuts was owned by Holloway's original family company until the company was purchased by Nabisco in 1998. As of 2007, CornNuts is part of Planters, a subsidiary of Kraft Foods. It is currently available in six flavors: Original, BBQ (barbecue flavored), Nacho, Chile Picante con Limon, Ranch, and Ultimate Heat.
A Filipino variant of corn nuts is cornick. Compared to the American variety, cornick pieces are typically smaller and crispier. Garlic is the most common flavor of cornick, with other common flavors including: chili cheese, adobo, barbecue, lechón manok also known as roasted chicken, and sweet. Major brands include Boy Bawang (literally "Garlic Boy" in Tagalog, commonly sold in small packets), Corn Bits, and Safari.
Diana, a snack company in El Salvador, makes a variety of corn nut like snacks. These are called elotitos in Spanish, or Crunchy Cornbits. These come in a variety of seasonings, such as Lemon, Cheese and Chili, and Barbecue. These are sold throughout Central America.