24 to 48 hours
Organic Russet Potatoes (I make 10lb at a time for two people)
Salt, pepper, or other spices
Meat Grinder with sausage stuffer attachment
(or sausage stuffer)
Food processor with julienne plate or cheese grader plate
(or cheese grater or julienne mandolin)
*All temperatures are in Fahrenheit
I love tater-tots, and in my quest for health, here on the homestead, I couldn't find any organic tater-tots in a 100-mile range, so I knew I had to make them. If you aren't into the health aspects of store tater-tots, scroll until you see pictures. Otherwise, read for an enlightening harsh truth about extra ingredients hidden in tots.
Here are the ingredients of a best-selling top brand:
POTATOES, VEGETABLE OIL BLEND (SOYBEAN AND COTTONSEED), SALT, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, DEXTROSE, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE (TO RETAIN NATURAL COLOR), DEHYDRATED ONION, SODIUM ACID SULFATE, NATURAL FLAVOR
What's wrong with these ingredients? Vegetable oil blends are made from the cheapest oils available on the market during production. Soybean oils carry compounds that bring about oestrogenic effects in rats when fed soybean oil daily. So yes, a daily dose of french fries or tater-tots is enough to affect the human body. Oestrogenic means any of several steroid hormones secreted chiefly by the ovaries and placenta, which induce oestrus (ESTROUS), stimulate changes in the female reproductive organs during the oestrous (ESTROUS) cycle, and promote the development of female secondary sexual characteristics. Oestrogenic effects can also alter mood. Have you ever felt fussy after getting tater-tot faced? I spent my adolescent years working as a car hop, chugging the XL cheese tots on each shift, leaving me feeling sluggish, having horrible female cycle issues, and wicked death-crabby. Oestrogenic effects cause ED and low testosterone in men. The use of soybean oils and erectile dysfunction in this country clearly correlate. It makes women super crabby and makes men lose their virility. It is a food ingredient that ruins relationships. It affects people no different than pills.
Cottonseed oil had a compound known as gossypol. Gossypol has been found to have several adverse side effects, including infertility from reduced sperm counts and motility, pregnancy problems including early embryo development, respiratory distress, liver damage, and anorexia. Plenty of good information about cottonseed oil can be found all over the net written by cottonseed oil producers. Cottonseed, at one time, was highly toxic trash until they figured out how to genetically alter the plant, extract some oil, and highly refine it to be fed back to not only humans but animals. All cottonseed oil for human consumption is a GMO product.
Yellow corn flour is made from dent corn, which is known as a GMO or BT corn. GMO corn has an altered gene that tells the corn not to die when in contact with the poisonous glyphosate (Round-Up) used for weed control. Bt corn is genetically altered with a fungus that kills bugs when they consume any of the plants. It has been found to disrupt the guts in honey bees, but as fast as they can prove issues in the human digestive tract, the studies get buried, or the chemical maker does other tests to disprove this fact. Sorry, I don't trust them. I have seen what agricultural sprays have done to my bees here and eating a fungus in corn that kills bugs or disrupts their reproductive system sounds like it should affect anything that eats it.
All these types of seeds (soybeans, cotton seeds, and corn kernels are seeds) for these oils grow in Round-Up ready soils or soils treated with glyphosate that generate another whole bag of unpleasantries for health such as cancer, kidney and liver problems, and developmental issues, and reproductive harm.
Dextrose is a highly refined sugar. The body absorbs it quickly and raises blood sugar levels giving you a food high. It is often used in foods to keep people addicted. It has virtually no nutritional value, known as empty calories.
Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a leavening agent to give the tots some poof. It has also been shown to harm your immune system and cause osteoporosis if you consume it in large amounts for an extended time, according to a 2018 study in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology. Tests done in that study were with high amounts, but people who consume more than one or two food products daily with the ingredient are simply consuming more elevated amounts. It is used in toothpaste as a tartar-control substance. This product is currently under a class action lawsuit for its use as an organic substance.
Dehydrated onion. You probably can't go too wrong there. Although most spices are treated with irradiation these days, and as a cancer survivor, I'm not too fond of the idea of eating radiated foods. It removes all microorganisms, the bad, along with the good! There haven't been any long-term studies done on the consumption of irradiated food. One study found it caused ill health in children with malnutrition, and in animal studies, it caused tumors, reproductive damage, and kidney damage. This is why I grow and make my spices.
Sodium Bisulfate is used in household cleaners, certain liquid detergents, metal finishing, and swimming pool pH additives. In high doses, it is incredibly toxic. It is listed on the poison control hotline. One tablespoon is enough for a toxic overload. Sure, there isn't much in that one bag of tater-tots, but if I eat them over a few years, I will slowly ingest that amount. It can't be healthy, even in small doses.
"Natural Flavors" is a bureaucratic blanket to cover all kinds of hidden things, including chemical preservatives. The Code of Federal Regulations for Natural Flavors is six pages long. You can find the link below.
Code of Federal Regulations for Natural Flavors
You wouldn't think all of that is hidden beneath that tiny label on the tater-tot bag. All those tiny harmful additives add up in each food you eat daily. So this is the reason I make our tater tots here at home, with only four organic ingredients. Let's get started.
Place your potatoes in a pot of water, add some salt and parboil for 15 to 20 minutes. The size of your potatoes makes a difference. You do not want them fully cooked but should be able to pass a skewer through them without a great deal of trouble. Mostly cooked is what you are aiming for here. They will finish cooking in the fryer.
Drain the potatoes and put them in a sieve for air circulation and place them in the fridge overnight. They must be thoroughly dried and cooled before the next step. Do not wait another day, or this won't work. Twenty-four hours gets the moisture just right.
The next day peel the potatoes with the side of a pairing knife. Don't use a potato peeler. It will gum up and become frustrating.
Run the whole potatoes through your food processor with a julienne plate or cheese grater plate. You can use quite a few different kitchen tools to get this done, but the food processor is the fastest. The goal here is long thin shreds, not clumps, shreds, broken shavings, or potato "dust." We are making stringy potato spaghetti noodles here. Get as close as you can.
Lightly sprinkle organic corn starch (available on Amazon.com for cheap by the pound) and salt over the top of your stringy potatoes. Salt them as you would any dish you normally consume. I like salty tots. Everyone has different salt preferences and salt requirements. You can do herbs and spices here if you are into flavored tots, but I like my tots simple, so I can savor the potato and dreamy homemade organic ketchup from my garden. Depending on your potatoes' moisture, you have some wiggle room here. The sprinkling of the corn starch and salt help bond the potato strings together and aids in quickly removing excess water from the tot in the fryer, making for crispy, crunchy tots. Toss in your corn starch, mixing salad style, careful not to compact them together. Grab a tiny tot-size fistful and make a gentle but firm fist. If the potato sticks together, you are ready for the next step. If they are crumbly and dry, use a sprinkle of milk or water. They need to hold together but without any excess moisture. Do not delay here. You do not want to let this sit for hours. Stay at the task.
Place the tater-tot-size sausage-making tube on your sausage maker. If you don't have a tot-sized tube you could probably use a smaller tube and make tot fries - this could be another blog at a later time. I use a bean plate (a three-hole plate) to hold the auger in place. If you don't have a bean plate use the largest hole size plate you have, but you may have to leave your blade in to prevent a clog. I leave my blade out because I prefer the longer strings in my tots. It makes cutting them more manageable as it helps hold them together, and I think the longer strings make for easier handling when cooking. There is a lot of room to play here. These variances will make your tots one of a kind, but it still gets the job done. The idea is to get some pressure on the potatoes as they pass through the sausage tube to hold together without too much mixing or chopping. If you don't have a meat grinder or sausage stuffer, you could make them by hand, but it will take a very long time.
Place a cookie sheet on something to get a flat surface up near your sausage extruder hole. Start stuffing your grinder or sausage stuffer. You want to make long tater-tot ropes, so they are easy to cut. Don't make the mistake of letting the ropes drop and break, like in the photo. It takes forever to cut them and make them pretty. Letting your meat grinder auger spin endlessly harms the texture of your tots. Over-mixing makes "mashed potato tots," and they are not as good and do not cook up the same. It makes a mediocre product.
You want to be able to see those defined strings of potato in those tots as you start to cut them.
Line up your "tot-ropes" and cut them to length. It's okay if they all aren't perfect in size; they will still all cook nicely. If you like more crunchy bits, don't obsess about split ends. They do not come apart in the fryer and stay golden crispy.
At this point, you have some playtime. They will not brown and can be kept in the fridge on a cookie sheet covered with saran wrap for a few days. Just beware if they start making condensation. They fry up with a little unwanted extra excitement (oil spitting). Use a splatter guard if this happens.
I freeze them for storage by lining them up on cookie sheets without touching and freezing them for another 24 hours. Freezing them changes some things. They do not fry well frozen unless you are using a high temp oil. I use lard at 350 degrees and have to thaw the tots before frying, or it lowers the oil temp too much, and they fall apart. So this means I can't store mine in vacuum-packed clumps to break apart when frozen before tossing in the fryer. I line my tots up like little sardines in a vacuum bag and freeze the freshly frozen tots completely flat. It is time-consuming but worth every single tot! They stack and store in the freezer easier this way.
Cook the tots in small batches of around ten tots at a time. If you use a high temp oil, such as peanut oil, cook them at 400 degrees until golden brown. If you are using lard, 350 degrees. Drain on a cookie rack set on top of a cookie sheet with edges to catch extra oil drippings. Don't use paper towels as they absorb moisture, and hold it on the bottom side of the tot, making them soggy. Keep them warm in the oven at 255 degrees as you batch them out. They will stay crunchy in the oven for up to a half-hour.
Alternatively, if you're not into frying, frozen tots can be oven cooked at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes on a tray, stirring them halfway to get them to brown on all sides. I do not recommend air-fryers unless you have a stainless basket or tray. Non-stick coatings and their fumes are toxic. 425 degrees for 18 min or 400 degrees for 20-25 min, gently shaking once or twice. Shaking depends on how well your tots are pressured together, so they don't fall apart. Just keep an eye on them.
You will find these tots taste amazingly better than fast-food tots, without all of the icky feelings afterward. Many nights I have left my burger nearly untouched as I have filled up on these glorious golden beauties. They are well worth the work. I make tots once every other month to keep us in fresh-frozen supply.
*Please note fried foods continue to cook when removed from the fryer, so don't wait until they are fully browned. Pull fried foods from the fryer when they are two shades lighter than you would like.
Leftover tots (if you have any) can be warmed in a stovetop pan on medium heat for a few minutes or in the oven on a tray at 275 degrees for 20 minutes. I toss them in with scrambled eggs in the morning as mini-hash-browns.
Oh! Now you know how to make those too! Just find a way to press them into hash-brown size before cooking!
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*Sources do not reflect the opinions used in this blog publication.
Studies on the oestrogenic activity of soybean oil on albino rats
Symptoms of High Estrogen in Men and Women
Cottonseed and Gossypol - How it Had Been Altered For Human Consumption https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/10/17/658221327/not-just-for-cows-anymore-new-cottonseed-is-safe-for-people-to-eat#:~:text=Texas%20A%26M%20University-,Cottonseed%20is%20full%20of%20protein%20but%20toxic%20to%20humans%20and,%2C%20fish%20%E2%80%94%20or%20even%20people.
Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate and Health Issues
Nothing Natural About Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
Sodium Bisulfate In Toxic Doses (15 milliliters)
What is Wrong With Food Irradiation
Code of Federal Regulations for Natural Flavors