Have you ever had a bumper crop of potatoes and could never get them to keep more than a month or two? With a proper cellar or vented basement, it’s fairly easy.
However, some people don’t have the luxury of having a root cellar, any interest in maintaining one, or live in the wrong climate for one to work properly. Therefore I’ve developed several work arounds to store my root crops.
Most county extension offices agree that when housed in a dark location to prevent “greening,” unwashed potatoes stored at approximately 40F should last for many months, allowing you to harvest or purchase potatoes when they are plentiful and have them last throughout the winter months.
My Michigan basement is too damp and warm at the best of times to serve as an effective storage place for root vegetables like potatoes.
When I have a bumper crop available, I spend an afternoon preparing them in a variety of dried or frozen ways that I can easily reuse throughout the year which assists me with both eating healthier and saving some money in the kitchen.
Whole potatoes simply don’t dry or freeze well. Trying to dry them whole is merely an exercise in futility. They simply won’t dry completely if they’re whole.
Trying to freeze whole causes them to lose the texture and consistency that really makes them shine as a premier root vegetable, in my opinion. But several other methods of drying and freezing work quite well. Here’s how I do it.
Dehydrating Sliced and Diced for Long Term Storage
Dehydration provides the most space efficient storage method for long term storage of potatoes. I’ve found that dehydrated examples can be rehydrated and cooked in much the same way as raw.
I do not peel my potatoes for storage, but I do wash them free of all dirt and cut out any blemishes or sprouts. Once cleaned, I cut them into ¼- to ⅜-inch slices or dice them into 1-inch cubes.
Because I usually work with large quantities at one time, I have another pot that I set aside with salted water (a large handful for each gallon of water). As I cut the potatoes up, I place them in the salted water to sit until I’m finished cutting up everything. Once everything is cut up, I drain the salted water off and rinse lightly.
After everything is sliced or diced, I blanch for about 3 to 5 minutes in water at a full boil, then plunge them into ice water for a few minutes to stop the cooking process.
The trick to blanching without making a huge sticky mess is to add slices or chunks to the boiling water in batches.
Working quickly, I drop about 2 cups of slices or the cubes in one piece at a time so they don’t stick together. After about 3 to 5 minutes, I scoop them out with a strainer and immediately place them an ice water bath, letting them sit while I blanch the next batch.
Once all they are cooked, I drain the ice water off completely and immediately place them on the food dehydrator trays, trying not to overlap pieces. Each food dehydrator has different instructions, so check your product’s manual.
To prevent browning and discoloration after slicing, mix 1/4 lemon juice with 3/4 water in a food safe spray bottle and lightly spritz the potatoes with the solution.
This also works well with apples and other fruits and vegetables that tend to brown. Also, use a stainless steel knife or a mandolin slicer for cutting; carbon steel blades can also cause browning.
Once dried, I store the potatoes in plastic tubs in my cupboards until it’s time to use them. You can reconstitute slices by soaking them in water for about half an hour.
I don’t bother with reconstituting diced versions before I use them because I’m most often adding them directly to soups or stews where they will reconstitute on their own.
Freezing Twice-Baked for Long Term Storage
Potatoes baked whole can’t be frozen, though they are delicious freshly roasted in a cast iron skillet! They end up rubbery and unpleasant when defrosted and re-cooked. Twice-baked versions, however, freeze incredibly well and last for 4-6 months when wrapped in freezer paper or tin foil, or twice that long if stored in vacuum-sealed bags.
To make a batch for freezing, bake whole potatoes and then cut them in half. Scoop out the pulp of each half and mash it according to your favorite recipe, usually adding milk, butter, and seasonings, but no cheese.
Take the mashed pulp and refill the halves with it, and then wrap each potato in freezer paper or tin foil.
To reheat, I simply unwrap them and place them in a 425F oven while they’re still frozen and bake them for about ½ hour. At the half-way point during the reheating, I sprinkle them with a little cheese.
Freezing Mashed Potatoes for Long Term Storage
Mashed potatoes can be frozen so well it’s a wonder more people don’t use this storage method. I simply prepare my favorite recipe using a potato ricer and add milk, butter, seasonings, and without any cheese and then cool completely.
Once cooled, I form them into patties packaged in between layers of freezer paper and seal the layers in a zippered plastic bag.
Stored this way, potato patties keep for 4 to 6 months without suffering any flavor loss. If they’re vacuum sealed, I find that they last for twice as long.
I never thaw them for reheating. I simply brown them in a pan with a little oil and butter or bake them in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until they’re heated through.
If I run out of time to make potato patties, I line an old cake pan with freezer or parchment paper, being sure the paper covers the entire bottom and sides of the pan.
On the other hand, if I’ve got plenty of time, I might be ambitious enough for pre-made Italian potato gnocchi, and freeze that for the future!
Then I spread the mashed potatoes in the pan and place the entire thing in the freezer for a few hours until everything is solid.
Once they are frozen, I use the paper to lift the block out of the pan. I place the frozen block, paper and all, a zippered plastic bag with a label that tells me the date it was frozen, which pan I used, any cooking instructions I’ll need. My label looks something like this:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Today’s Date
- Bake at 375F for 30 minutes
As with the patties, mashed potatoes frozen this way keep for 4 to 6 months without suffering any flavor loss. If they’re vacuum sealed, I find that they last for twice as long.
To reheat, I simply find the pan that’s listed on the label and place the frozen block directly in the pan without the paper. It then goes into the oven still frozen and baked for the time I’ve listed on the label at the appropriate temperature I’ve noted.
Once they have thawed, enjoy as is, or spread them on top of your favorite recipe for shepherd’s pie.
Freezing as French Fries for Long Term Storage
I knew that it was possible to freeze potatoes as French fries, but I had a little trouble figuring out the right way to go about it. After several failed attempts that resulted in mushy blobs, I finally called my county extension office and got the answer I needed: the key is partial cooking and shorter freezer storage time.
I wash my potatoes and leave them with the peels on, then use my French fry cutter to cut them up into fries. You can also use a knife to cut them into ¼-inch strips.
Once cut up, soak the fries in ice cold water for about 5 minutes, drain the water off, and set them on a towel to dry while you heat up frying oil. Fry for about 4 minutes at 360F, until the fries are partially cooked but not browned at all. Remove the fries from the oil and drain them well.
After I drain them, I like to use an old, brown paper bag to remove as much oil as possible. Once drained, I spread the fries on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer until they’re frozen solid and then package them in freezer bags for no more 4 to 8 weeks at the longest.
To reheat, you can fry them still frozen in oil at 360F until golden. I prefer to bake them at 475F in the oven until they’re golden brown and heated through. It takes about 30 minutes.
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