Sunday, November 16, 2014

Preserving Potatoes: Day One

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

A great thing about homesteading is finding a bargain and making use of it! I have been waiting on the fall sale of potatoes and it's finally here! These were a buck and a half per 10 lb bag! They have been $4 each most of the year.

I have a list of ways I am wanting to preserve these and thought I'd share the processes with you! I can't can them because I don't have a pressure canner and that is the only safe way to do it. But I can freeze and dehydrate them, so that's just what I'm going to do!

First up...dehydrating potato slices. I use a mandolin to get them thin and evenly sliced. My food processor does have a slicer attachment, but it's extremely loud and it runs so fast that the slices don't come out even. Really, this process doesn't take all that long anyway.

Then they need to be blanched. Well, they don't "need" to be, but it helps to remove some of the starch so the potatoes won't turn black when dehydrated. If you don't care about that, then you don't have to worry about blanching them. The color doesn't affect the taste or the nutrients as far as I know.  I tried to rig up a removable strainer, but it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Just as well because you can't use the water over and over. It will get full of starch and then starch won't leach out of the potatoes anymore causing your potatoes to still be black even after all that work!

After 2 minutes in boiling water, I plunged the tater slices into ice water to stop the cooking process. Then I placed them in the dehydrator. I estimated I could fit 6 potatoes in it and I was pretty accurate! The last tray still has a bit of space, but it wasn't enough for me to slice and blanch another potato for that. I'll leave these in overnight. I want them completely dry, so no need for a timer. I'll check them in the morning and/or whenever I get around to it. ;)

Even though most everything you read will tell you to dehydrate fruits and veggies at 135 degrees, I choose to set mine at 115. That's the highest temp you can dry something at and it still be considered raw food. Not that it really matters with potatoes since I will be cooking them when I use them, but I like to stay consistent. Plus I have had to deal with case hardening: when something dries too fast and the outside gets too hard to effectively soak up water. I made a batch of scalloped potatoes with case hardened potatoes and it was not good; very chewy and rubbery. I learned my lesson the hard way there. I'd rather take a couple extra hours of drying time than risk losing an entire batch of food.

Next I made tater tots. I have never made these before and was excited to try them. After looking at several recipes online, I sort of came up with my own. I wanted oven baked instead of fried.

I boiled an entire pot of potatoes the night before so they could cool in the fridge overnight.

Then I peeled them...easy peasy!

I gathered up some spices I thought may be tasty: salt and pepper; garlic and onion; and paprika. I love paprika, I put it in all sorts of stuff! It's a wonder I don't use it like pepper. Though, now that I think of it, maybe I will! I also added a bit of flour. Some of the recipes I read called for it, so I made half with flour and half without. I didn't measure anything, just tossed it in, but after tasting the end result, I'd say less is better. Plus the flour didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Then I started shaping them. Wow, is that a tedious job! But, no more than rolling dough balls for cookies. But, I realized, I don't make cookies very often for that! It took me about 15 minutes to do this many. This is also the yield from five potatoes. I tried to make them all the same size; I don't think they're too bad. You can tell towards the end I was tired because they got a bit bigger. I put this pan in the freezer, then when they are frozen, I will put them in a freezer bag.

I tried to make the medallion-shaped tots, but I was really bad at that! So, I thought, why not try a mini-muffin pan? All the recipes I read said to heavily grease your pan or use some sort of non-stick paper/silicone covering. So I sprayed the mini-muffin pan like crazy and used parchment paper on the cookie sheet. I like extra crispy tots, so I gave them plenty of space.

Most recipes called for a temperature between 400 and 450 degrees. I thought I'd start with 450 since I like my tots super crispy. Plus most called for the tots to be drizzled in oil. Well, I ended up forgetting that part, so they were a bit dry, but still tasty. I baked these tots for 30 minutes, turning half way through. I baked the medallions for 20 minutes, turning them halfway through. My boys ate the medallions before I could take a picture, but they worked out well. I think this is how I will make tots in the future as it took much less time to make them and bake them.

Sometimes preserving food can seem more trouble than it's worth, especially when you can buy the mass-produced equivalent in the store for a pretty cheap price. But I enjoy it because I know exactly what goes into our food; plus I can teach our kids valuable skills in the process. I love showing them how a potato can be turned into a tot. It just takes a little time and a lot of love! 

In the next article(s) I will cover more dehydrating as well as recipes on how to make your own boxed potato bake! Plus I will be freezing potatoes in different forms. Feel free to share your tips as we go along as well! There are many ways to accomplish the same thing and I enjoy hearing about different methods!

Have a wonderful day and preserve on!

Jen Hen

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