Monday, 23 September 2013

Home Made Crisps

When I come to think about it, it is amazing that the idea of making my own crisps never crossed my mind before.

As readers experienced with my work will know, I have more than a passing acquaintance with crisps. In fact when it comes to crisp and snack products in general, I am considered somewhat of an authority on the subject. Yes, my love affair with them goes right back to 1974 when as a four year old boy I was thrilled at buying my packets of Walkers from the off sales at the pub for the princely sum of 4 1/2p.

For younger readers, there used to be a 1/2p coin up until the early 80's. Excessive inflation rendered it unnecessary by then, but 40 years ago most things cost around one tenth of what they do now, so the half penny was of quite significance. Here's a piccie of a supermarket window poster from the 1970s.


But inflation rendered the half penny redundant, prices rose rapidly back then, in fact I remember the shock of the crisps at the pub going up from 4 1/2p to 7p in one foul swoop. Might not sound a lot to you now, but in 1976 to a boy on 10p a week pocket money it was catastrophic!

In case you were wondering what I was doing buying things from pubs at such a tender age, well I bought them from the "off sales" as mentioned above. This is another throwback to a bygone era. Back then the pubs in my village (and presumably elsewhere) used to be set up so that you went through a central door and could then either turn right or left - to either the lounge (the posh bit) or the saloon (working class bit). I believe the prices were even different between the two - i.e. higher in the lounge, presumably to keep out the riff raff. Sounds quite outrageous doesn't it? But that's the England of four decades ago.

Anyway, if you did not turn left or right, you had a little window in front of you, almost like a little post office window. There would be a little glass case with various confectionery and crisp items in it, and here anyone could come in and buy, including small boys with their pocket money already developing a crisp fixation in 1976. I believe beer was also sold here to thirsty drinkers at closing time, and at other times too. There was much less beer on offer in supermarkets and off licences than there is now, and also not the price disparity there was then. Few people would buy take away beer from a pub these days, if it is even still allowed, but back then, for many, there was no other option.

So, in a blog entry which is about making my own home made crisps, why have I just written all that? Well I see my purpose here to be to entertain and stir a few nostalgic memories rather than just write a blog about making some crisps. As buyers of my books, which I am sure you are, you will know the routine by now. I like to set the scene before I get to the point. But fear not, those of you who aren't entertained by my ramblings from yesteryear, the crisp bit is coming up now!

I had been thinking recently about how crisps are made and about the possibility of making my own. I mean, how hard can it be? Well, not hard at all it seems.

I had a little fish around on the internet for a bit of advice, read a few pages and decided to give it a whirl. I used Maris Piper potatoes, peeled them as usual, and then put them through the Andrew James meat slicer at a thickness of about 2mm.

The Andrew James - every home should have one

Now I know I have gone on about this Andrew James meat slicer on many previous occasions, but it really is an amazing bit of kit to have in the kitchen. There is no way I could have sliced the potatoes this thinly using a knife.

They sliced up beautifully. I only used three medium sized potatoes (probably about 40p worth), but once sliced up they seemed a lot more. I've noticed this with food a lot. Take cheese for example, a small block of cheddar can produce a sizeable amount of grated stuff.

Once all the slices were prepared, I soaked them in water to get rid of the starch - twice. Essential because if you don't do this, they will all clump together.

Second soaking in the sink
After that I took them out of the water, put them in a colander to shake them dry, left them for a bit, then dried them out on kitchen roll. This took a while but it is essential to get them dry if you don't want them to go soggy.

So, eventually they were all set to go, and awaiting in the chip pan. I thought about doing them in the Actifry, but decided to go with the fryer on this occasion. So I heated the (sunflower) oil to 190c, and got them ready to go in.

Raw crisps
I didn't really know exactly what I was doing at this point, I had no idea how long they would take. I was worried I might have overfilled the chip pan, it is only a mini fryer after all. I put them in for about 5 minutes and then took the lid off to check. What I initially saw was not encouraging. They had all seemingly clumped together and look sodden with fat, incredibly unappealing. So I put the lid back on and left in again for another 5 minutes. Then I took them out again. This time things looked a little more promising. A little less anaemic, and a little less soggy. 5 more minutes and out they came again, and this looked a lot more promising. Crisp, golden, separated, well here is the finished article for you to look at.

"Jason Ayres brand crisps"
But the proof of the pudding and all that. What did they actually taste like? Well I had made enough for Claire, Ollie and Jamie so I served them up, with a sprinkle of salt, still with low expectations, and this was the result.

They were amazing - exactly like crisps but incredibly fresh. Now I know that these days crisps are all foil packed for freshness, but this is nothing to to the freshness when they were made literally 5 minutes ago. The family were full of praise! Absolutely delicious and I cannot believe I never thought of doing this before! The amount was about what you would expect in a £2 bag of kettle chips.

Now - the next challenge is to wonder about how to flavour them. I wonder how smoky bacon and the other flavours are done. Added afterwards, perhaps. I shall investigate.

Perhaps this shall be my next career option. In addition to DJ'ing, blogging, selling books, perhaps the next thing in the development of brand "Jason Ayres" is the production of my own brand of crisps. It would seem to be the next obvious step!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

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