Monday, June 20, 2011

Potato chips

Someone asked me yesterday what I've been doing about snacks for my family - someone who knows what it's like to be busy and have growing kids that eat a lot and the need to send them off with easy snacks... or pull something out of the cabinet quickly to remedy a melt down moment for a group of kids. I explained that we eat a lot of popcorn (like, a lot)... and that in a pinch, I have bought a few bags of chips over the past 6 weeks. It's true! 3 bags of potato chips that I was so super conscious of at the register and when I threw the empty bags in my trash can.

So I decided that it's time to start making these things on my own. If these freakin companies of all natural snacks won't consider having more environmentally friendly packaging (I've contacted a lot of them and the only one doing anything good is Boulder chips, but we can't get the chips in their compostable bag around here) - then I'm going to have to at least try to make some of these snacks on my own. And if I can't make them... well then, maybe we shouldn't be eating them. Think about it, before all of this convenience food - what did people eat? They ate whatever they could make or barter for. And maybe some of them were even healthier because of it.

Ok, so tonight I tried out making potato chips. It went just ok... but I have some trail and error under my belt now for future attempts. Oh, and I have some potato chips to put in my youngest child's lunch for camp tomorrow.

The down side:
1. It took me 1.5 hrs to make them.
2. Some of them didn't get quite crispy enough and I wasn't patient enough to fry them again.
3. At the very end, because I was being impatient, I splattered a little hot oil on my arm and it currently hurts me.

The up side:
1. This will be so much easier next time.
2. If I get my kids to help next time, I will have a better grasp on what to do and they will understand how special these convenience snacks are and appreciate them more.
3. They taste good.

So how did I do it?

I started with some basic organic yukon gold potatoes and sliced them up as thin as I could, I think I cut up 4 or 5.
I soaked the potato slices in cold water for about 30 minutes to help remove some of the starch.
Then I dried them by laying them on a cloth and blotting them with a cloth napkin from above.

Meanwhile, I heated up oil in a pot. I used a cast iron pot that was deep to help avoid splattering of hot oil - this is a good idea and I recommend it. Next time I will probably try and use a wider pot, mine was kind of small.

After my first few batches, I realized that the oil wasn't hot enough. I don't have a temperature taker that I could use for hot oil, but if I did, I would have wanted it to be about 350 degrees. (Hey, where on the keyboard do I find the little "degrees" circle that goes after the temperature??) The ones made in the oil that wasn't hot enough looked like this:
They look pretty good, right? I kept thinking they would crisp up as they dried, but they didn't. I ended up re-frying them. When I would take each batch out of the oil (once the oil was up to temp, it was about 3-4 minutes), I would sprinkle salt on the chips - course salt that you grind yourself works best for this, but you could add other seasoning here as well, including pepper.

Well, I finally finished after all of my trail and error and I ended up with a nice bowl of almost all crispy (ish) potato chips.
I put the crispiest ones in one of my new stainless steel airtight containers to keep them fresh - I will let you know how they keep (why I think they would last beyond tomorrow, I don't know but if they do, I will let you know).

While this is one way to have snacks around without the packaging, it certainly is not convenient. Like, at all. But maybe what we all need is a little reminder that good, fresh food is worth it sometimes. Think about where your food comes from and where the packaging goes when you are done with it... and if you can't let go of that convenience food, that's ok. All I'm asking is for you to be conscious of what you are spending your time and money on.

Ok, now I'm off to put something on my burn...

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