Although — I admit it — I use my dehydrator more for beef jerky than for anything else, I do use it for other things, such as drying the unused half of an onion or making apple chips or banana chips.
Home-dehydrated apple and banana chips are quite different from their storebought cousins. Look at the ingredient list for store-bought apple chips or banana chips, and you’ll be startled at how much fat they contain. I’m not sure of all the reasons for this, but I have a couple of theories — a thin coating of oil helps any seasonings to adhere to the chip, such as just a touch of cinnamon for apple chips. Also, while I’ve never needed or tried to preserve my banana or apple chips long-term, it may be that they tend to re-absorb moisture and lose their crispiness. A thin film of oil may serve as a moisture barrier.
I like the fact that my homemade apple and banana chips have no added fat, however.
I bring this up because of the news this week that the corporation behind Vlasic pickles, ConAgra, is preparing to start making pickle chips.
By “pickle chips,” I do not mean pickle-flavorted potato chips, which are already a common item. I mean chips made from actual dill pickles.
According to the stories I’ve been reading, the chips will be “vacuum-fried,” which I suspect must be the same or a similar process used for those store-bought apple and banana chips.
I was intrigued by the idea, and wondered if I could just dehydrate some pickle chips in my home dehydrator. I looked online, and there are already multiple how-to recipes for dehydrating pickle chips, such as this one.
I tried the recipe using a small jar of hamburger pickle chips. They are, as you might guess, very salty, but the flavor was good. I did not let them drain for two hours as called for in the recipe; that might have helped with the salt, although I’m not sure how much more liquid would have drained out. If you wanted to cut the salt, you might even be able to rinse the slices in a colander before drying them.
After 10 hours in the dehydrator, they weren’t quite as crisp as I was hoping, although I could probably have let them go longer.
I finished that first batch pretty quickly — as you might expect, there’s so much water in pickles that once you remove it, you have a much smaller weight and volume of product.
I wanted to try again. At first, I was going to buy another jar of hamburger chips, but then I remembered the jar of whole pickles in my fridge. If I used my cheapo, probably-unsafe home slicer (sort of a toy version of the mandoline used by real chefs), I could probably make thinner slices, which would turn out crispier and lighter.
That turned out to be correct, although the thinner slices drew up a little bit — they were very small once dried, the type of snack where you just naturally grab two or three at a time instead of one. I had actually anticipated this and tried slicing the pickles on the bias to make a larger, oval-shaped slice. But it was difficult to hold the pickle correctly on the slicer if I was holding it at an angle. But they were light and crispy, and there wasn’t as much salt in each bite, although I guess all of the salt was still there in the pile.
Anyway, I liked the result and will continue my experiments. What if I rinse before drying? What if I add pepper flake or hot sauce? What if I try sweet pickles? Sweet pickles will probably never get perfectly crisp because of the hygroscopic (water-absorbing) properties of the sugar. But a sweet-and-spicy pickle might have a fantastic favor dried.
We’ll see where this goes. By the time the Vlasic product gets here, I may have no need for it whatsoever.