Monday, May 28, 2012

Sweet Potato Chips and Homemade Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles and Jalapenos

Since our trip last summer to Paonia, Colorado - beautiful wine country in the southwest area of the state - I've been wanting to make my own pickles.  The urge struck me after we finished the jar of "Good and Evil" pickles we bought from a local farm there, sweet pickles with a spicy hit of jalapenos.  It didn't take us long to finish those pickles, and I've been craving them ever since.

Friday night I impulsively invited one of my girlfriends over for dinner, along with her baby girl, as her husband was going to a baseball game that night.  We grilled cheddar-stuffed BBQ burgers with caramelized onions, topped with some of the BBQ sauce I recently made, sweet potato chips with thyme and cloves, and pickles.  I had no idea if pickle making would be easy or not since I've never pickled anything, but the grocery store carries little packets of pickling mix, and I thought that was the best place for a beginner like me to start.

Basically, I just followed the instructions on the packet of Kosher Dill pickling mix, bringing water and vinegar to a boil, mixing with the packet contents, and pouring over my cucumber and jalapeno slices, letting them sit in a bowl for the required time, then transferring them to a jar to chill out in the fridge until dinner.  Using "pickling cucumbers" would have required a special trip to the Asian market, since our grocery store doesn't carry them, but I didn't worry about that and just used regular cucumbers, sliced into chips.  A sliced jalapeno, seeds removed, gave it that spicy kick that I'd been craving.

It was so easy and quick, and I loved how spicy and fresh they tasted.  Since we were planning to eat them right away, I didn't bother with canning them, but the packet has instructions for the canning process as well.  The instructions also said that the flavor was best after 3 weeks, so I'll be interested to see if the flavor changes over the next few weeks as they sit in the refrigerator.

Jamie loved the pickles so much, he's been eating them with everything.  Next time, I might experiment with adding a few more spices of my own.

For our sweet potato chips, Jamie has made sweet potato chips before by frying them until they were nice and crispy, but I wanted to try baking them this time to see if I could get them as crisp.  Before I continue, I'll just tell you, it's not the same.  Some of the chips did have crispy bits to them, but it's not like that crunch you get from a fried chip.  If any of you have had success with this or other methods, then I would sure love to hear your feedback and how you got them crispy from baking instead of frying.

I sliced them fairly thin with a mandolin, although possibly not thin enough - the thinner ones did seem crispier in the end.  Olive oil spray did a nice job of evenly coating the potato slices without too much or too little oil.  And a generous sprinkling of coarse salt, cracked pepper, dried thyme and ground cloves gave them a wonderful flavor.

After baking them at 325 for about 25 minutes, the edges had curled up and they were cooked through, looking like they would be crisp, as you see in the picture below, but they just weren't crunchy.  I turned off the oven and let them sit in the dry heat to try to help them dry out more and hopefully crisp up, but in the end, we just ate them anyway, even though they weren't quite what I was hoping for.

The next day, I took the rest of the sweet potato slices that we hadn't cooked yet (2 sweet potatoes yields a LOT of thin slices), and quickly fried those in a few inches of oil at 365 degrees, drained them on a wire rack and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and paprika.  Jamie said, hands down, those had a much better texture and crunch.  I would say I have to agree.

Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles
printable recipe
  • 1 packet (1.8 ounces) Kosher Dill Pickle Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 large cucumbers, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds removed, sliced 1/8 inch thick

In a saucepan, combine the Kosher Dill Pickle Mix, water and vinegar.  Bring to a boil.

Place the cucumber and jalapeno slices in a large bowl; pour the hot pickling liquid over the vegetables.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cucumber and jalapenos to two glass jars, then pour the pickling liquid into the jars all the way to the top.  Place the lids on, refrigerate and enjoy!

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sweet Potato Chips
printable recipe
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and very thinly sliced
  • olive oil spray
  • coarse salt
  • cracked pepper
  • paprika and garlic powder or thyme and cloves

Preheat the oven to 325.  Spray 4 baking sheets with the olive oil spray and sprinkle with the seasoning of your choice.  Place the potato slices in an even layer on the baking sheets, spray potatoes with olive oil spray and season the tops of the potatoes as well.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until edges curl up and potatoes are golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large, flat-bottomed pan to 365 degrees.  Working with just a few slices at a time so that you don't lower the temperature of the oil, fry the potatoes for approximately 2 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.  Transfer to a wire rack to drain and immediately sprinkle with seasoning.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen