So, you got bold and planted a gazillion potatoes? Now what??
The most common way to save your harvest is to let them sit (unwashed) in a dry place for a couple weeks, then once they develop a thick skin, store them (unwashed) in a dry cool place. A root cellar is best, but if you can bury them in sawdust or some other moisture absorbing material, even better! When you store fresh potatoes, you need to go through your potato stash on a weekly basis and pull out the ones that are getting “over ripe,” the ones that are getting soft or have blemishes on them. Once one goes bad, the rest will soon follow. This is a time-tested process and quite successful … if you have the time.
I, however, do NOT have the time!
So, what’s a farmer to do?
FREEZE – DRY – CAN
Here’s what we did with our last harvest of 60 pounds of potatoes. About 20 lbs each were kennebec white, yukon gold, and pontiac red. It took us a whole Saturday and about 1/2 of Sunday to get them all processed.
For the yukons and kennebecs, we made gnocchi and froze some whole to mash at a later date, froze hash brown, home fries, french fries, roasting potatoes, and dehydrated slices to be used in scallop and au gratin dishes. These are starchy potatoes and should be used in recipes where you want your potatoes to stick together a little bit. (The yukons are the light colored potatoes in the basket, and the kennebec are the light colored potatoes in the bucket.)
The pontiac reds are a waxier, less starchy potato that we used strictly for canning. (Obviously, the pontiac reds are the red ones in the basket.)
So, how do you do all these things?? You can do whatever you want with your variety of potatoes. This is just what we did according to what we like and how we eat potatoes.
When freezing potatoes, rinse off the dirt, peel off the skin (Yes, you have to peel them!) and rinse again, then cut in the style you want. As you’re cutting, drop the cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water. This will keep them from turning brown while you’re cutting the rest. Have a large pot of water boiling on the stove while you’re cutting. When you have a batch ready, drop them into the boiling water to blanch. This will help them freeze better. You can certainly pop them in a freezer bag without blanching, but you’ll probably have a mushy mess when you thaw them. All the water inside of their cells will burst upon freezing, and blanching them before freezing stops this mush from happening. After you dump some in the pot, bring the water back to a boil and start your timer. For tiny pieces like hash brown, blanch for two minutes. For larger pieces like home fries or french fries, blanch for five minutes. Since you’re timing by size, you can see it’s best to keep your pieces all the same size. For whole potatoes, blanch for ten minutes. When your timer dings, dump the potatoes in ice cold water to stop them from cooking. Once they’ve cooled a few minutes, spread them on parchment-lined cookie sheets and place them in the freezer for a couple hours. When they are completely frozen, transfer them into a freezer container (ziploc freezer bags work), write the date on them, and enjoy for 12 months!
When drying potatoes, follow the same steps as above with washing, peeling, slicing, blanching, and cooling. But, instead of the cookie sheet, place them in your dehydrator. Dry at about 120 degrees for 10-12 hours. They should become slightly translucent when they are completely dry. Store them in an air-tight container. Properly dehydrated and packaged potatoes can store for up to TEN YEARS! Wow! They’ll never last that long around here, but it’s good to know. To re-hydrate your potatoes, soak in water for fifteen minutes and use as you would any potato.
When canning potatoes, follow the same steps as above with washing, peeling, slicing, and blanching, but you don’t need to cool them off in cold water. Prepare your canning jars as usual, and using a slotted spoon, spoon your blanched potatoes directly into your hot jars. Cover with clean boiling water. Don’t use the blanching water. Yes, I know this requires two big pots and your canner on the stove. It’s tight! Pressure can at 10 lbs – pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes. Pressure canned potatoes will last 2-5 years, but again, they’ll never last that long around here.
If you want to freeze homemade gnocchi, mash 4-5 potatoes, add one egg, 1 tsp salt, and 1 1/2 c of all-purpose flour. Mix until you get a nice stiff dough and roll out on the counter into a rope. Cut in 1 inch pieces, place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in the freezer for 2 hours, then transfer into a ziploc bag. My favorite recipe is to boil them for about 3 minutes until they float, then put them in a casserole dish with any sauce and tons of cheese (tomato sauce, cream sauce, butter and sage, any kind of cheese!) and bake at 425 for 5 minutes. Quick and easy supper. You can also fry them with just butter and the veggies and seasoning of your choice.
From our 60 pounds of potatoes, we got:
12 quarts frozen whole, 1 gallon each french fries, home fries, roasting potatoes, hash browns, gnocchi.
12 quarts pressure canned whole.
2 quarts dehydrated slices, which will double in size when they are re-hydrated.
Including the ones we mashed for supper the night we processed, the small ones we fried up the next morning for breakfast, and the ones still left in the fridge for later this week, these potatoes will give us about 50-60 meals. Once a week for the whole year ain’t too shabby!
If you look closely at the bag labels, you’ll see I started writing “Yukon” on some bags, then realized later those were the kennebec, so I went back and wrote “Not” above the word yukon. Not that it matters, but if we find one we really like, we won’t remember a year later if they were yukon or kennebec. And for some reason, on a couple bags the year became ’31. I’m sure they’ll be gone long before then. 🙂