Sunday, January 13, 2013
Dehydrated cubed potatoes
We grow a lot of potatoes in our garden and store them in the root cellar over the winter. By spring they're starting to sprout or shrivel, so I set some aside for planting and I bring the rest in to dehydrate. We use the dried potatoes until the next crop is ready. They're also great to take along when we go camping.
In the picture above, the two jars are full of dried cubed potatoes. I peeled and partially cooked the potatoes before spreading them on drying racks. I usually cook them until they're about 2/3 done cooking. Then I drain them and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. This also cools them so that I can handle them without burning my fingers.
But let's back up a minute. After the potatoes are peeled and I'm cutting, slicing, shredding, or cubing the potatoes, I put them in a big bowl of water that has a Vitamin C tablet crushed and mixed with the water. This keeps the potatoes from turning brown or purple (yes, they do sometimes turn a reddish-purple, or even black). You can use ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C but sold in bottles for preserving the color of fresh foods, or any of the "fruit fresh" products to help retain the color. They only need to be in the water for a couple minutes, then I remove them and dump them into the pan of boiling water.
When they're done I dump all the trays of potatoes into cake pans, then using my canning funnel, I pour them into jars. When I'm canning I set aside any jars that have tiny chips in the rim, or the ones that aren't 'real' canning jars, and I use them for dried food. I can also reuse a lid that had previously been used to pressure can. They're not safe to re-use for canning but they're great to use on jars of dehydrated food.
We also use a meat slicer to slice potatoes for dehydrating. These can be reconstituted and used for scalloped potatoes, or for fried potatoes and onions, and many other dishes.
I cook them until they're partially cooked, then spread them on dehydrator racks. This is my Nesco dehydrator.
This is what they look like when they're almost done. In the dehydrator they only take a few hours to dry, but in the oven or air-drying they take a day or two, depending on temperature and humidity.
These are shredded potatoes that I'm ready to boil. They cook quickly so I only leave them in the water for about two minutes. I unintentionally learned how to make instant mashed potatoes the first time I dried shredded potatoes.
The 'shredded' potatoes were overcooked and stuck together, and they were a mess to spread on the dehydrator racks!
No problem! When they were done dehydrating I put them in the blender and made potato granules and we use them like instant mashed potatoes.
The next batch went better. I dumped the shredded potatoes into the boiling water and fished them out about 2 minutes later. You can see that these are separating and spreading better on the racks.
These are commercial shredded potatoes. I got an incredible deal on eight bags of frozen shredded potatoes and dehydrated all eight bags spread on racks and placed on shelves above and behind our woodstove.
I also made more 'instant mashed" potatoes this year. I don't recommend plastic bags for long-term storage, but I used this tortilla bag to store these to take on camping trips.
Here's a closer look at the cubed, dried potatoes, also stored in a tortilla bag for camping. I prefer not to haul my glass jars out into the back-country. Tortilla bags are great because they have good ziplock closures.
A closer look at the finished dehydrated potato slices. They look a bit like potato chips but they're not light and flaky. They need to sit in water for a while to re-hydrate and soften, and then cooked.
Potatoes are a versatile food that often gets a bad rap as being "fattening" or starchy. But when you work hard growing your own food you probably work it off, and some of the 'fattening" qualities come from the things that are often added to the potatoes, either during cooking or at the table. In a preparedness or emergency situation, potatoes can provide more to keep you going than a lot of vegetables contain. So don't be afraid to grow or buy them and add them to your storage. Dehydrating is a good way to keep them for a longer time. I know of at least two people who dry potatoes and keep adding them to a 5-gallon bucket until it's full, then they throw in an oxygen absorber and seal the buckets. They live in warmer climates and don't have root cellars, so both use dehydrating as a way to preserve potatoes.
Potatoes can be canned, too. The first time I canned them I cut them into small cubes and when I used them, they became mashed potatoes. The next time I cut them into large quarters and they canned up great. Potatoes must be pressure canned, not water-bath canned.
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