Because our neighbors have a huge potato farming operation, we have the opportunity to forage tons of potatoes for free. Ok, maybe not tons, but many, many pounds. More than we can carry at once and more than I’d like to think about having in my kitchen waiting to be canned at one time. The best news about these potatoes is that they are PERFECT for canning because they are small and oh so tasty.
Whether you grow your own potatoes or forage them, be sure to avoid those with green spots. The green usually appears after the potatoes have been laying out in the sun for a day or so. In fact, when we harvested the first round of potatoes, they looked fine but as they sat waiting for me to can them for a couple days, many of them turned green. The green does actually signify that there are toxins in the potatoes. Granted you would have to consume mass quantities of them to actually make yourself sick (so the occasional green tipped potato chip is ok to eat), you only want to preserve the best, smoothest, most unblemished potatoes possible. Leave shriveled or black potatoes out of the batch as well. You can cut little damaged sections out of them as needed. We had so many potatoes to can that I started to be thankful for those green taters after a while…it just becomes insanely redundant at some point.
Preparation of Potatoes
Wash the potatoes and scrub or peel off skins. Wash them again. Leave small potatoes whole and quarter larger potatoes or cut into uniform cubes. Place in a stainless steel pot or bowl of cold water after cutting to prevent browning. If you’re going to hot-pack them, go ahead an put them in a large pot so you don’t have to switch them to something else before boiling them.
You need 2-3 pounds (around a kilo) of potatoes for each quart/liter jar that you can. That’s about 15 medium sized potatoes…or several dozen tiny ones like we had. I started peeling them initially but the potatoes were so small that it became too tedious. So I just started scrubbing them down really well (still kinda tedious but it goes faster) and canned them that way. I used a pot scrubbing sponge with a course pad on it to clean the taters. If you go this route, I suggest wearing gloves because your fingers, nails and cuticles will begin to suffer before long.
Potatoes, like many other vegetables, can be hot- or raw-packed. The process for canning potatoes with raw- and hot-pack methods is not all that different and both require a pressure canner because of the low acidity of potatoes. In general, the hot-pack method is recommended because the vegetables will be more pliable and you can get more vegetables packed into each jars But when you’re doing many, many jars of them and your pressure cooker only holds 3 jars at a time (going to have to get my hands on an American canning pressure cooker one day), you decide that the raw-pack method will do just fine. Just keep in mind that when you raw pack, the vegetables may shrink or soften and the jar may not end up as full as you initially intended. You may also end up with a much lower water level in the jars because the potatoes absorb it, but this is no cause for concern. And the white sediment in the bottom of some of the jars? That’s just starch from the potatoes–absolutely harmless.
Always wash and clean your jars and lids before using them and keep them warm in a pot of boiling water until you are ready to pack them.
To hot-pack potatoes, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water (if you didn’t do this already after washing them). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil small cubes for 2 minutes and small whole potatoes or quartered potatoes for 10 minutes, until heated through but not soft. Drain, discarding cooking liquid. Pack hot potatoes into hot jars, leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) headspace, and pressure can as instructed below.
To raw-pack potatoes, firmly pack cleaned potatoes into hot jars, leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) headspace, and proceed as follows for pressure canning.
To pressure can potatoes:
- First add 1 teaspoon of salt to quart/liter jars or 1/2 teaspoon salt to pint/500mL jars. Ladle boiling water over potatoes, still leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more hot water. Put a lid on the jar and secure it.
- Place jars in the pressure canner. Adjust water level, lock lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Vent steam for 10 minutes, then close the vent. Continue heating to achieve 10 lbs (69kPa) pressure and maintain pressure to process. Pint (500mL) jars require 35 minutes and quart (1 L) jars 40 minutes. (Consult your pressure canner manual if you have a dial-guage canner or if you’re canning at higher altitudes.)
- Turn off the heatn and let the pressure return to zero naturally. Wait 2 minutes longer, then open the vent. Now you can remove the canner lid. Wait another 10 minutes, then remove the jars, let them cool and store in a cool, dark placeeaaaa.
We ended up with 17 liter jars of potatoes. We will use them for mashed potatoes when we have no fresh taters at home, and they are also fantastic as home fries for breakfast or roasted potatoes with a little onion, bacon, salt & pepper. I used to make my home fries with potatoes I’d pre-cooked in the microwave, but this route is even faster because the potatoes are already cooked due to being canned in the pressure cooker.
If you’d like to learn more about canning, get yourself a copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It’s got over 400 recipes to help you use up all sorts of goodies from your garden and orchard. Pick up a copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.de437