Blanco Valley Farms Tortilla Chips
These are not the same chips off the old block
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., June 10, 2011
Jim and Marla Sanders of Blanco Valley Farms have been making powdered chili and dip mixes since the early Nineties. All of their delicious spice mixes contain no salt, no MSG, and no artificial flavors of any kind. Initially, they sold their products from their house in Blanco before moving on to farmers' markets and gift shops throughout the Hill Country.
When the Austin farmers' market scene exploded in popularity, their son Tracy Sanders, who lives and works in Austin, began selling his parents' line of mixes at the markets here. Of course, to try a dip you need to have some sort of chip, so Tracy brought tortilla chips that he had fried up himself.
"Before the first day was out, I had people begging me to sell them my chips!" Sanders relates. "So I asked if I could sell them too, along with my parents' mixes and salsas. The answer was yes, as long as I used organic masa and fried them in high-quality coconut oil."
Thus a fantastic product was born. Sanders' tortilla chips are so outstanding, you simply can't find chips of similar quality at any store. They must be tried to be believed. Crisp and thick, they're light in spite of their sturdiness and have no oily aftertaste. Sanders starts with organic white-corn masa from New Mexico. "White corn has a different texture than yellow corn," he explains. "It is more flourlike and softer. It makes tortillas that fold more easily without breaking."
Every Friday, he heats up a fryer full of virgin coconut oil, and while it heats he starts making his tortillas with a commercial tortilla machine. "I make between 100 and 150 pounds of organic corn tortillas every week," he says. "And my tortillas are completely gluten-free. I have been told that some tortilla chips manufacturers lightly dust their chips with wheat flour to keep them from sticking together on the conveyer belts after frying. But nothing touches my chips except a very light dusting of sea salt."
Despite their premier quality, the prices for Sanders' tortillas and chips are comparable to national brands. An 8-ounce bag is $3, and a 1½ pound bag is $7. "My bags look smaller because they aren't full of air; the big manufacturers have to seal up a lot of air inside the bags to prevent breakage in shipping," Sanders explains. "I sell the tortillas too: fresh white corn, whole wheat, and flour tortillas [$2 for a bag of six]. But 80 percent of my tortillas get made into chips. That's just what people like."
Tracy Sanders sells his tortillas, chips, and salsas at the Barton Creek Farmers Market from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.