January 14, 2016

Civil War Era Potato Chip Recipe

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks. The challenge this week was "Meat and Potatoes" and mid 18th century potato chips fit both those categories. Being made with bacon grease, the chips from this recipe are fragrant, with a smoky bacon smell and a crunch that modern chips can't compete with.

The origins of potato chips are vague. Many people have claimed to have invented them when they became popular around the time of the Civil War, but recipes for similar dishes have been printed as far back as The Cook's Oracle (1822) with its recipe for “Potato Fried in Slices or Shavings." Recipes for them were printed on both sides of the Atlantic and a recipe for them even appeared in Godey's Lady's Book in 1865.

Today chips are known for being a side dish to a meat dish and this has historically been the case. A Manual of Domestic Economy (1856) suggested potato chips go out with the second course along with partridges and lobster. The Modern Cook (1858) suggested they be served with roasts and ptarmigans, a grouse like bird. The New England Farmer, and Horticultural Register (1847) recounted a trip through Mississippi where the author was offered "jerked venison and potato chips." The potato chips in this case being made from sweet potatoes but still being served with meat.

Civil War Era Potato Chips

The Challenge: Meat-and-Potatoes (January 1 - January 14) They’re a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables - and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic “meat-and-potatoes” recipe - however you interpret it.

The Recipe:

The Date/Year and Region: London, England, though similar recipes were also printed in the U.S. around the same time.

How Did You Make It:


- Potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Bacon grease or oil
- Salt


Skin the potatoes then peel them in long strips in the same way you would pare an apple. Put the strips in a bowl filled with cold salt water until you are finished peeling. Remove the pieces and let them dry on napkins. You can blot the tops of the strips carefully. In a medium sized saucepan on medium heat, heat the grease or oil. The grease is ready to fry in when you put a small piece of chip in and it bubbles. Drop in as many pieces as you can without overcrowding them. Stir constantly with a long handled metal spoon or they will stick to the pan. Fry 3-5 minutes. The pieces will shrink and float but wait until the edges are a little brown before removing. Place fried chips on a sieve to let dry. Sprinkle with salt as they are placed on the sieve.

Time to Complete:
30 Minutes

Total Cost: A few dollars.

How Successful Was It?: Better than I expected.

How Accurate Is It?: For my personal chips I fried in oil as I don't eat meat but my family had the bacon fat variety.


  1. I love ribbon chips! I didn't realize they went back that far.

  2. Very good recipe of potato chips but if you don't want to cock it then you can go out for dinner in our taxi we have good taxi service for you known as Detroit airport taxi .

  3. Hey everyone!

    I am told that there is a brand of chips called "Grandma Utz" which cooks them this exact same way, in lard.


Tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.