Preserving The Harvest In January

Author Photo
By Mary Conley

Dear friends,

Who would believe we’ve still been taking care of our harvest in January? In this case, it was the potatoes. We don’t have an ideal storage place, although we manage to keep them where it is somewhat cooler than the rest of the house. Tiny sprouts had started to form and something needed to be done quickly as we certainly didn’t want to waste all the hard work that went into them. Actually, something should have been done before the sprouts started.

Here is what I have learned on the internet: Soft and wrinkled potatoes should not be used. (Whew! Ours are very firm.) But, when potatoes begin to sprout, their starch also starts converting to sugar. Fortunately, they still have most of their nutrients intact, but I wish I had taken care of them earlier. I’m thinking that if people in the past hadn’t eaten their potatoes when they began sprouting, they very well might have starved.

As for our potatoes, I had plans for them. Canning potatoes was an option. My daughter-in-law, Nancy, did that one year, and we found that although they are not good for mashed potatoes, they work great for hash browns and potato soup. Another option I haven’t tried is dehydration. That would save space. We decided to turn them into hash browns and freeze them, and this was our method:

Here are our potatoes ready for Larry to scrub. Although some had a few sprouts, many didn’t.

We baked them until they were almost done. Do you wrap each potato separately in foil? I used to, but learned that placing them in a covered dish works just as well. It saves a lot of time and foil. Here, I covered the whole dish as I had filled them too full for the lid, then I saved the foil for the next batch.

After cooling, I peeled and stored them in the fridge for several hours. On subsequent batches, I did the peeling after they had been in the fridge. Either way works, but I prefer the second.

My food processor broke and it seemed a good time to invest in this lovely KitchenAid mixer and attachment. I had never owned a standing mixer, and still haven’t used this one! Larry is a willing helper and enjoys using it. I call it his new tool!

The hash browns froze quickly on plates in my freezers. Notice that I used the inside of bread wrappers instead of clear food wrap. Worked perfectly. I know many of you like to reuse and repurpose, too.

I froze some in gallon Ziplock bags to be used for casseroles. In the above photo, I slid two of the frozen sheets of hash browns into the bag, but sometimes I stuffed it as full as possible with chunks I had broken apart.

I also froze several pint bags, which is a good size for the two of us.

If you don’t have a machine to make hash browns, I would suggest that whenever you bake potatoes, bake a few extra and shred them in the larger holes of your cheese grater for instant use, or to freeze for later. It will be a little more work than store bought, but you’ll have the good feeling of cooking healthier for your family.

After packing the last of the bags of hash browns in the freezers, I realized that the timing of preserving our potatoes was a good plan for us after all. Earlier in the year, my freezers would have been too full of other produce, and I certainly needed all that space over Christmas. Yes, sometimes things work out just right.

Published on Jan 5, 2015