Saturday, August 6, 2011

Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory

Our next stop was the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory. It’s a small factory that makes kettle cooked chips (sweet potato and regular potato). For $5 you can look through glass windows at the whole operation. From bringing in the whole potatoes to the bagged chips.
(Sorry for all the glare. The photos are shot through a glass window with a lot of glare from outside windows. You can click on the pictures to enlarge).

The potatoes arrive in totes, all washed, weighed, and graded from Albright Farms. The skins are kept on to keep the nutrients in the vegetable. The potatoes are dumped into a small potato hopper and rewashed in batches.

When the oil reaches 305 degrees, approximately 60 pounds of potatoes are released and moved up the conveyor to the slicer. The potatoes pass through a revolving slicer with straight blades to cut them into thin slices. The slicer spits out the sliced potatoes within 30 seconds into the kettle cooker that contains preheated canola oil.

The oil is kept between 300 and 305 degrees. The chips are cooked for approximately 6 minutes. While being cooked, the rotating rakes simulate the old-fashioned cooking style of racking them by hand. This stirring allows them to cook evenly and keeps them from sticking together.

The cooked chips move up the conveyor where excess oil is blown off.

They then move up the cool-down conveyor where they are graded and defective chips are hand-picked off the conveyor for the first time.

This is where our free sample bag of chips came from - I think that’s my bag he is filling up right now! Hot out of the oil. At this point they don’t have any seasoning on them. They were really good! There were many, many, many different seasonings available to add to our sample bag.

The vibrating hopper helps keep the chips feeding evenly into the seasoning tumbler. The chips enter the tumbler where the seasonings are applied.

When the chips come out of the tumbler, they pass over a mesh belt that lets the small chips fall through so that customers do not get a bag full of chip pieces. (These small chips, we were told, are sold to a local pig farmer).

The chips pass over an inspection conveyor where they are graded and defective chips are hand-picked off the conveyor for the second time.

The chips move up the bucket elevator that feeds a vibrating hopper that feeds the weight scale where chips are weighed and fed into the bags.

The chips pass through a metal detector before entering the bag. The bags are filled with nitrogen to help keep the chips fresh and the bags are put onto a rotating table.

Kettle Chips v. Regular Chips (click to enlarge and read).

Classic chip bags.

We bought several flavors to try.

We next drove to Potato World Museum in Florenceville-Bristol where they claim to be the French fry capital of the world.

We learned everything there is to know about potatoes and saw lots of antique tractors.

Then it was back home.

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