As for ingredients, freshness makes a difference.
If you're not using potatoes fresh from your garden, look for "baking potatoes" or "new potatoes" - ones with a nice golden brown skin - at your local grocer.
Otherwise, your chips will "just come out brown," Poffenberger said.
The problem with using older, not-so-fresh potatoes is that they are too starchy. Soaking the chips or blanching them before frying helps get rid of some of that starch build up, which causes the chips to brown too fast while frying.
Regardless of whether you do it the old-school or new-school way, there are a couple things to keep in mind when making chips at home:
· The hotter your grease, the crisper your chip. Trying to fry chips in grease that's not quite hot enough will yield thin slivers of rubbery fried potatoes. Get it too hot and you've got burnt chips. Heat the grease to about 350 degrees.
· Slice 'em thin. Leave them too thick, and you've got fried potatoes. Try about 1/8 inch slices or smaller.
· Experiment. Don't have potatoes? Try sweet potatoes. They work just as well.
· Don't keep them much longer than a day. After that, it's kind of like eating day old french fries.
And if you want to try some old-style chips, this year's Spud Fest is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25. Festival visitors can make homemade potato chips from spuds pulled from the museum grounds earlier that day. Museum staff typically plant roughly 100 pounds of potatoes. Staying true to history, festival-goers can fry sliced potatoes in a kettle full of lard (they also can be made in a cast-iron skillet), where they fry just long enough to turn medium blond. After that, the chips are removed from the kettle, cooled and sprinkled with salt.
The process takes about 10 minutes, Poffenberger said.
Where potato chips come from: A timeline
· Late 18th century - Thomas Jefferson introduces the U.S. to fried potatoes.
· 1853 - George Crum, a cook at Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, sends out a batch of fried, salted, thinly sliced potatoes as a joke after a customer complains the potatoes served there were too thick. But the potatoes are a hit, and become known as "Saratoga Chips." They are commonly served at restaurants in baskets and became known as potato chips.
· 1895 - William Tappenden of Ohio opens one of the first potato chip factories.
· 1921 - Billie and Salie Utz of Hanover, Pa., starts producing Hanover Home Brand potato chips, making 50 pounds an hour in their summer kitchen. Utz Quality Foods is later founded.
· 1926 - Bags of chips are born, thanks to Laura Scudder, owner of a California-based chip business. Scudder puts chips in wax-paper bags, with the tops sealed with an iron. Up until then, chips were dispensed in bulk from cracker barrels or glass display cases or were given to customers in paper sacks.
· 2003 - The potato chip turns 150 years old. Potato chip sales top an estimated $6 billion a year.
- Sources: Snack Food Association, www.sfa.org, Utz Quality Foods, www.utzsnacks.com