Preserving Potatoes - Best Ways to Preserve Potatoes

Whether a person buys potatoes from a local farmer, buys them in the store or grows their own, long term storage ability is dependent on the variety and the conditions under which the potatoes are stored.  But like most homes, I do not have the perfect condition in which to store them.  Although I do not bad, the potatoes I harvest in the fall will start sprouting and shriveling as it gets closer to spring, about 5 - 6 months post harvest.  But rather than disposing of what I have left, I figure that it is better to preserve the potatoes in some fashion.  And so, each spring I decide on how I will preserve potatoes long term. 


Preserving Potatoes - Selection

How much starch is in the potato will not only affect how long a potato variety will store, it will also affect how well they preserve and what are the best ways to preserve potatoes.  If you have an early variety of potato, they will not typically store well in most home settings and will be less starchy when preserving and therefore not as suitable for certain preservation techniques.   Later varieties typically contain more starch which allows for longer storage but the starch may affect the preserved product with extra starch being present.  As I explored in The Potato Trial - In Search of a New Potato Variety that Works for Me, I grow a number of varieties that I try to use for the purposes for which they are best suited.  But at the end of the day, I use what I have at the time and don't worry about it.  When I am preserving potatoes I maintain that mentality and preserve what I have left realizing that the preserved product may not be perfect.  Saving the potatoes from hitting the compost pile is my main goal.

And while I don't worry so much about the variety when I am preserving potatoes, I also don't worry too much about the condition of the potato either.  If it can be peeled, it is preserved in some manner.

Preserving potatoes - selection


Methods of Preserving Potatoes

Apart from storing potatoes in a dark root cellar that provides good air flow and optimal conditions for storage  at 43–50°F (6–10°C) with 95% relative humidity , there are a number of methods that can be used to preserve potatoes.  Which method is used will depend on personal preference, suitability and whether the potatoes are cooked or not.  But in general, the methods can be grouped as follows:

  • Freezing - this method is suitable for storing cooked potatoes for quick meal access.  Although it is a good way to deal with left over potatoes from a meal, it is not my favorite way to deal with the cooked potatoes because, to me, it affects the texture.  I will however use this method for preserving my cellared potatoes in the spring and for preserving my baby potatoes in the fall that normally won't store well.  When preserving raw potatoes, blanching is required prior to freezing;
Preserving Potatoes - freezing baby  potatoes
  • Dehydrating -   an effective way to deal with left over potatoes and/or blanched/partially cooked potatoes.  Through application of 125 F (51.7 C) heat the moisture is removed from the potato rendering it shelf stable.  Although I have heard of some folks successfully doing this in an oven, the use of a food dehydrator that moves the air around is most often used.  Rehydration prior to consumption will be required;
  • Freeze drying - a relatively new to home tool that works well for preserving both cooked and blanched potatoes.  Although I do not own one, nor will I, I have heard many a person rave about the convenience of the freeze dried potatoes and other products.  The finished product is said to last for up to 25 years under proper storage.  Rehydration prior to consumption will be required;
  • Canning - although not an effective way to preserve cooked potatoes, it does work extremely well for preserving raw potatoes.  The potato variety can affect how well the potato holds together during the canning process, but regardless, the canning process turns the potato into a very shelf stable product that will last for many years and make meal preparation as simple as opening a jar and reheating, if desired. The starch content of the potato variety can affect how the finished product looks in the jar, but if desired, a simple rinse will remove the starch, leaving behind a very useable product.  
Preserving potatoes -  canning


Best ways to Preserve Potatoes

Deciding on which method to use for preserving potatoes has always been about deciding the best application of the potato I have chosen to try and store in my cellar.  But coupled with that is how I would use the preserved product.  I own an Excalibur 9-tray food dehydrator so I could certainly dehydrate potatoes in all forms, but I have never been a dried potato consumer and so having jars full of dried potatoes that I need to rehydrate would not be an efficient use of my potatoes.  I don't own a freeze drier for a number of reasons, which I explored in Preserving the Garden Harvest by Canning - Does Home Canning Save Money, so this is not an option for me to preserve my potatoes.  But I do own multiple freezers and canners.  So, for me, canning and freezing potatoes are the best ways to preserve potatoes.

Canning Potatoes

The type and variety of potato  being canned will affect the end product.  Some will hold up better to the canning process and some will contain more starch.  But at the end of the day, I don't worry too much about what variety is going in the jar because they will all find a use as hash browns, potato salad, quick soups, fried potatoes or just straight out of the jar.

To can potatoes, it is recommended that they always be peeled.  Because the skin can harbor various bacteria from the soil, removing the skin helps to ensure a clean product to start with.  Besides, being that I am canning potatoes that are around 6 months old, the peeled potato is more appealing without all its shoots and wrinkles. Although it is recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation to peel the potatoes and “ Place in ascorbic acid solution to prevent darkening.”, I do not find this to be necessary as long as the peeled potatoes are totally covered in clear water.  The water prevents the darkening which is a result of oxidization. The peeled potatoes can remain in the water for many hours and sometimes refrigerated in the water till the next day without ever darkening. But the water also does something else. By soaking the potatoes in clear water at every stage of processing, It helps to remove some of the starch from the potatoes and therefore there is less in the jar once canned.  

So with potatoes in hand, I set to getting them all peeled and placed them in water as I progressed through the potatoes.  Because I am canning some Purple Magic and Red Ammalie potatoes, the water colored from the deep coloring of the potatoes.

Preserving potatoes - submerged in water to help remove starch

Once all the potatoes are peeled, the potatoes are chopped into about ½ inch pieces, or thereabouts. As each potato is chopped, the pieces are put in some fresh water.

Preserving Potatoes - chopping

Once chopping is completed, the pieces are given another mix in the bowl and then dumped into a colander for a final rinse before packing them in the jar.

Preserving potatoes - final rinse

It is at this point that I momentarily deviate from the National Centre for Home Food Preservation where they suggest to “Cook 2 minutes in boiling water and drain again.” prior to hot packing in the jar.  When I started to think about the two minute cook time I  realized that it was really just blanching the potato without the cooling normally done with blanching.  It might help get a few more pieces in the jar but the step was really just there to boil off some of the starch to make the finished product more appealing.  Being that my potatoes had received multiple soaks and rinses in clear water, a good amount of starch was already removed.  Additionally, boiling some potatoes like the Purple Magic which are considered a dry floury potato, would result in the pieces turning into mush.  With all of this in mind and after confirming the purpose of the two minutes was for starch removal, I made the decision to forgo this step when canning potatoes and to simply raw pack the jars to one inch from  the top of the jar (headspace).   As I add the potato pieces to the jar, I give the jar a shake to settle the potatoes and then pack as much into the jar as I can get while maintaining the one inch headspace.  I can get roughly 667 grams (1.47 pounds) of chopped potatoes into each 1 litre (1.06 quart) jar.  I don't add salt to my canned potatoes but if you wish to add salt, you would do it now adding one teaspoon per quart. 

Preserving Potatoes - raw pack jars

When all the jars are filled with potato pieces, the jars are then filled with hot water to one inch of headspace and the air bubbles are removed, topping off with water as necessary.  Hot water is used to ensure the jars are at a similar temperature to the water in the canner to prevent thermal shock and breakage of the jars.  There are a number of folks who are skipping this step and doing a “dry can” of potatoes.  However, as Pam from RoseRed Homestead points out in the video The Science Behind Dry Canning Potatoes the heat energy of water is far superior to the heat energy of air and this is why water is necessary when canning things like potatoes.  It is the most efficient method of  heat transfer to cook the potatoes and effectively kill any bacteria or spores, should they be present.

With the jars filled, the rims were wiped to remove any potato particles and the lids were attached.  When available, as I explore in Vegan Beans and Odd shaped glass jars - pressure canning with reusing glass jars and reusing canning lids, I will often reuse snap lids as well as jars with their original lids from store bought food items. This canning session was no different as a number of jars and lids were reused. 

After attaching the lids, the jars of potato pieces were placed into a pressure canner.  Although there are some that hot water bath can their potatoes for three hours,  the National Centre for Home Food Preservation suggests that a pressure canner be used.  I am not here to say that hot water bath canning potatoes is wrong, but for me, based on my experiences I feel the pressure canner is a quicker, more efficient, less worrisome and my preferred method of canning my potatoes  After filling the pressure canner and attaching the lid, the heat was turned on high and once it started to vent steam,  the canner was vented for 10 minutes.  The weight AKA jiggler was then attached and the canner was brought to 15 pounds pressure (for my altitude).  Once the weight started to jiggle, the timer was set for  40 minutes and the heat was reduced slowly over the next ten minutes until I was getting the number of jiggles per minute as specified for my pressure canner.  After the required 40 minute processing time was reached, the heat was turned off and the canner was allowed to return to zero pressure before removing the jars to a toweled surface where they will sit for 24 hours to seal and cool.  Although the coloring came out of the Purple Magic and Red Ammalie potatoes and it appears, as expected, that the dry floury texture of them caused a slight break down of the pieces, every jar sealed.  No loss though, they will be used and are a welcomed addition to the pantry shelves.

Preserving potatoes - canned

And despite the next couple batches of potato pieces, including the Netted Gem potato variety, spending the night in the fridge under water, they looked really good and canned up well.  A little extra starch in the jars of Netted Gem (first and second jar from left) because of their high starch content, but nothing that can't be rinsed off if I so choose. 

Preserving Potatoes - canned netted gems

Spending the night in the fridge with the various potato piece varieties were some potato wedges that I made from the Netted Gem potatoes.  I find that because of their high starch content and drier texture, they make nice fries and wedges.  I planned on freezing them.

Preserving Potatoes - freezing potato prep


Freezing Potatoes

Freezing potatoes is a quick easy way to preserve potatoes.  You don't need any specialized equipment other than a pot, a freezer and some water.  You can freeze them in cubes, whole, wedges or shredded, depending on your intended use.  With the potatoes I grow I do can the majority but I also like to freeze wedges, cubes and baby whole potatoes for a quick side if needed.  Regardless of what form you  decide to freeze them you will need to blanch them for a few minutes to stop the enzyme actions that will cause them to turn black in the freezer and to help preserve the texture.

As with canning, prepping the potatoes for freezing involves a lot of water to prevent blackening from oxidization and help remove some starch.  When doing things like wedges and cubes, the potatoes are peeled and placed in clear water, then chopped into wedges or cubes and returned to fresh water.  For whole baby potatoes with skins intact, as I do in the fall, a simple thorough washing will suffice.  If peeled though, a clear water bath for the peeled potatoes is necessary.

Preserving potatoes - wedges

At this point the wedges are ready for blanching.  Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, dump in your potatoes and return the lid.  It will take a few minutes to return to a boil.  Once it does, set the timer for two minutes.  While the potatoes are blanching, fill a sink with cold  water to immerse the blanched potatoes in when they are done.  When the two minutes has passed, drain the potatoes and then immediately dump into the cold water to stop the cooking action.   After about three minutes, remove the potatoes and allow them to drain to remove the excess water.  A towel to soak up excess water can be used to speed this up, but is not necessary.

It is at this point if you are wanting to freeze shredded potatoes that I would suggest you shred your whole blanched potatoes and put directly into the freezer.  I would not try to blanch  shredded raw potato.  I found that the Purple Magic being a drier floury potato did start to fall apart during the blanching process but will  still be usable.

The wedges made from the Netted Gems were perfect though and will be a nice addition.  Just goes to show that although any potato can be used for anything, some varieties are just better suited for certain applications.

Preserving Potatoes - Netted Gem wedges

When the  potato wedges or cubes have cooled a bit, I then flash freeze them by spreading thin on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer over night.  Not only does this allow for  quicker freezing, but it prevents the potatoes from freezing in a giant lump when bagged.

Preserving Potatoes - flash freezing

Once completely frozen, the cookie sheets are given a slight twist to dislodge them and then the frozen potatoes are placed in a plastic freezer bag on which I have written the date.  I prefer to freeze in larger bags so that they don't get lost in the freezer.  I just remove what I need and reseal the bag.  But I also find that the larger bags of potatoes have less frost on the potatoes and therefore the potatoes keep longer.  However, any size bag will work.

 Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the best way of preserving potatoes is to be able to store them until the next year's crop has come in.  It is the least labor intensive and just a better way to use the potatoes.  But most of the time, although we do our best to store them, the potatoes start  to become less than perfect.  And so for me, freezing and canning are two of the best ways to preserve potatoes.

Having potatoes canned and on a shelf or in the freezer affords me the convenience of a quick meal and gives me the comfort of knowing I have potatoes to use should something happen to the garden.  Granted, I could maybe plant fewer hills so I don't have the surplus in the spring, but as I explored in The Potato Trial - In Search of a New Potato Variety that Works for Me I am also in search of a better storing variety and so a few extra hills is required in addition to the three varieties I have planted for years -  Netted Gems, Red Norland and Purple Viking.    But I also have to recognize that I have had failed potato harvests in the past and so having the extra potatoes in a good year to can and/or freeze gives me a cushion.  Additionally, having the extra potatoes not only gives me the opportunity to can some for the convenience of them, it  allows me to use some in canned convenience meals like soup and stews.  At the end of the day though, preserving potatoes in these ways gives me comfort knowing that I have this nutritious, cost effective vegetable available in many forms throughout the year.

I hope you found this information to be useful and that you consider planting your own garden, however small, not only for the produce but also for the benefits that gardening provides.  Please consider joining the My Boreal Homestead Life community.  By supplying your email address at the bottom of the page and hitting "sign up" or by clicking Join the community, you will ensure you get an email notification when I post new blogs to the My Boreal Homestead Life site.

Thank you for joining me on the front porch of My Boreal Homestead Life as we explore this Homegrown, Homestead life, In a Modern World.


Additional Resources

Preserving Potatoes - Pinterest link


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