Oh Heavens: Lard-fried Potato Chips with Smoked Paprika & Scallions

Homemade potato chips find their way to our kitchen only very rarely, but what a heavenly indulgence when they do appear.  You see, I’m a potato chip addict.  I may blend a killer kombucha, spend my afternoons brewing water kefir and culturing raw milk yogurt, but it’s the humble potato chip: salty, crunchy and wonderfully greasy that will always have my heart.

I take after my mother that way.  That woman never met a potato chip she didn’t like, and in the summer on the tiny island where I grew up we’d file into a rusted out banana-yellow sleeper van and ride from the air base to the beach at the other side of the island.  And while I’d muster all the grade-school patience I could, that drive seemed an eternity though the island, tip-to-tip, was only seventy miles long.  Those were the long days of summer, hazy and hot and wet.  We’d spend hours in the water only to come to shore and eat peanut butter sandwiches gritty with coral sand.  At night time, we’d stay up late playing Shanghai Rummy eating potato chips slathered in French onion dip. For me, the humble potato chip evokes these memories so strongly that in one bite, I can remember the darkened bungalos at the beach, the briney smell of the sea and the rhythmic washing of the waves as they crashed upon the shore just outside our room.

We’ve given up potato chips, more or less; they’re loaded with nasty stuff: refined vegetable oils, genetically engineered ingredients, MSG, refined salts.  I still can’t help myself, though.  I crave them: the crunch, the salt, the greasy fingertips.  It’s not so much that the potato chip is an unhealthy food, but, rather, what we’ve done with it.  A potato, on its own, is a beautiful thing – capable of sustaining life in the Andes until it was brought from the new world to the old and found itself welcomed all over Europe, but perhaps in Ireland and Germany the most.  The challenge then is the processing.  The use of unhealthy, solvent-extracted genetically engineered vegetable oils like soybean and cottonseed oils that are used to make snack foods instead of the traditional fats that have nourished humans for thousands of years like butter, lard from pastured pigs, tallow from grass-fed cattle, coconut and palm kernel oils.

 

So when I attended the Weston A Price Foundation conference last year and the year before, I found a substitute to satisfy my cravings without sacrificing my adherence to a truly whole traditional diet: lard-fried potato chips.  Ah! The joy!  And I committed myself to making them at home, too.  It’s not a dish you’d make quickly – two pounds of potatoes produces only five ounces of chips, about the same amount that you’d find in a modestly sized bag.  Nevermind the time it takes to gently fry each batch of chips, eight to ten at a time, in a cast-iron skillet full of hot fat.  This, dear readers, is a recipe for the true potato chip lover.  It is not for the faint of heart.

Lard gets a bad rap. It’s an unloved fat, but one that deserves cherishing.  When the lipid hypothesis of the mid-twentieth century took hold, lard was on the outs and still remains on the outs despite our new-found (and well-deserved) infatuation with tropical oils like coconut oil.  It’s a shame.  At the turn of the twentieth century when diabetes rates were low and cardiovascular disease was almost unheard of and before the processed vegetable oil industry skyrocketed, lard and butter were the darlings of the home cook, the primary source of fat in the diet.  Indeed, no one had heard of cottonseed oil, canola oil hadn’t yet been invented and folks were thriving in good health on eggs fried in bacon fat, fruit pies with lard-crust and foods fried in grass-fed tallow.  The only liquid vegetable consumed in any quantity was olive oil.  Lard nourishes, it’s potently rich in vitamin D and an primarily composed of monounsaturated fat – the very fat that makes olive oil and avocados so healthy.  So give it  up grapeseed and canola oil fans, and learn to use traditional fats.  They taste better anyway and you can render lard at home easily.

homemade potato chips
homemade potato chips
 
Prep time
Cook time
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Like a bite of crisp and smoky bacon, each chip fills your mouth with the lovely, smooth old-school flavor of pastured lard spiked with smoked Spanish paprika. A one- to two-day fermentation reduces starch in the chips, making them ultra-crispy while also reducing the formation of acrylamide – a cancer-causing chemical naturally found in starchy fried foods like potato chips and french fries.
Serves: about 5 ounces (or the size of a modest bag of chips)
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes
  • 1 packet starter culture (I use this one) (dissolved in ½ cup water, or ½ cup fresh whey)
  • filtered water, (as needed)
  • pastured lard, for frying (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bunch scallions (sliced as thinly as possible)
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (buy spices here)
  • unrefined sea salt (as needed)
Instructions
  1. 2 lbs Russet potatoes
  2. 1 packet starter culture (dissolved in ½ cup water, or ½ cup fresh whey)
  3. filtered water, (as needed)
  4. pastured lard, for frying (about 2 cups)
  5. 1 bunch scallions (sliced as thinly as possible)
  6. 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  7. unrefined sea salt (as needed)

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What people are saying

  1. Rachel says

    Sounds delicious & I really like the idea of fermenting the potatoes. Would it be ok to ferment the potatoes in a simple salt brine?

  2. Maria says

    Hi There! These look amazingly delicious, I cannot wait to make them. However I dont have a starter culture. Would kefir grains work fine as a starter?

    Thanks!

  3. Katie says

    I am confused about the “covering”. Am I covering the potatoes with the water/culture mixture or with a tea towel/lid?

    If it is the water, given that amount of potatoes I didn’t have enough water mixture to cover them. Do I just keep adding water until they are covered? Do I have to keep the water culture mixture proportions intact and add more culture too?

    Thanks!!!

  4. Helena says

    I am curious what this infusion with bacteria does for the potatoes as the bacteria would all die off in the cooking.

    • Jenny says

      As you know, because you read the post and notes, the fermentation process reduces acrylamide formation.

  5. Rhiain says

    Hi Jenny –
    This recipe doesn’t actually list the instructions (ingredients are duplicated), so I’m not clear on what I should be doing with the starter culture. Do I slice the potatoes and soak for 1 or 2 days? Potato chips are my weakness and I can’t wait to try and make my own!

    Also, do you think those natural chips that aren’t fermented are bad because of the acrylamide – even though they’re cooked in better oils like coconut and avocado? For example, Jackson’s Honest Chips?

    Thanks!!

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