Potatoes are a frustrating crop to grow because one day you have none and the next day you have a laundry basket full.
I was trying to be smart this summer. Firstly, as soon as they began to flower, we started digging on the side of the plants, picking enough for dinner. Then, even when I knew they could all be picked, I left them in the ground, again picking them only as we needed them. I had read that this is a good way to store potatoes. But one day, I noticed new green shoots appearing and I knew it was time to act. In an instant, that laundry basket was full. That is a lot of potatoes for two people and I knew they would go all soft and wrinkly before we were halfway through so I began to think about preserving them.
The options are quite limited for keeping potatoes, especially in Australia where very few have a basement and it does not get particularly cold. I didn’t want to freeze them – I am always nervous about having too much food in the freezer in case, one day, it stops working. Loading up the freezer is inevitable at the end of summer, although I am trying to keep more in jars rather than in the freezer. This year, I have frozen silverbeet, corn and beans. Maybe next year, I will pressure can the corn. I don’t know how silverbeet and beans would go pressure canned. Maybe I will give them a try next year. Now we have dogs, any veg we are not keen on can go into their dinner so nothing will be wasted.
Putting potatoes in the fridge is frowned upon. I have read that it increases the sugar content and, once refrigerated, they will turn brown if you fry them.
You know where this is leading. I decided to pressure can some. I really was not convinced they would taste any good but I had some small ones and funny shaped ones so I decided to sacrifice them in the name of science. I set about peeling them.
I ended up with 4 litres of potatoes. They certainly don’t look that appealing in the jars. Firstly, the potatoes “grew” and the water lessened! You can see how low the water level is and it looks like I have packed the potatoes right to the top. Both were packed with a 2.5 centimetre head space as per the instructions. I don’t know if the potatoes absorbed the water or the water bubbled out or what. It is very weird. I am worried the potatoes not in the water will discolour over time. The next thing you will notice is the water is all starchy. I thought the instructions said to use the cooking fluid but, on closer reading, I think you are supposed to use clean, boiled water. The starchy water certainly adds to the lack of appeal.
Because I was very sceptical, I opened one jar for dinner to check it out – the top photo. I didn’t want to preserve more if we weren’t going to eat them.
I was pleasantly surprised. They tasted like potatoes! Not quite as good as freshly cooked potatoes but fine. This time I shallow fried them. I thought they would fall apart but they held their shape and didn’t stick to the pan any more than fresh potatoes. The only thing I noticed was they did not brown. I had the olive oil quite hot and left them in the pan longer than they really needed but to no avail.
I am sure they will be perfect mashed. They will also be perfect for the salmon patties and potato cakes that Maus makes.
I still think they are worth doing again, especially if you are going to make patties, etc. I think I will do four more jars, keep some for growing and try to eat the rest before they get too old.
Here are the instructions, if anyone is interested…
- Peel and wash new potatoes.
- Cut into even pieces – Mine ended up being about 2 centimetres wide and 3 centimetres long.
- Place in an ascorbic acid solution (one teaspoon to 4 litres of water) to prevent the potatoes darkening. I didn’t have any ascorbic acid so I used citric acid and it did the trick.
- Cover the potatoes with hot water, bring to the boil and boil 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes: 2 minutes if they are a centimetre square; or 10 minutes if they are small whole potatoes. I did mine for 4 minutes.
- Pack hot potatoes into sterilised jars, leaving 2.5 centimeter head space (if using litre jars, half of that if using 500 mil jars).
- Cover with new boiling water, leaving the same head space.
- Process at 11 pounds for 40 minutes if using 1 litre jars or 35 minutes if using 500 mil jars.