So you have this 15 lb. bag of potatoes because it was the same price as just two or three loose potatoes. Being the frugal shopper you are you’ve chosen to go with the bulk and try to use as many as you can before they start to sprout.
You don’t have a root cellar so what do you do? Well, you might can them. This takes up a lot of time and valuable jar space. So what now? Answer, dehydrate. Dehydrating keeps them preserved while drastically reducing the amount of storage space needed to keep them long term. Additionally, it makes them much lighter and easier to pack if you need to bug out, or just take camping or hiking when you need those extra carbs for energy and comfort.
There are various cuts and styles of potatoes that you can make with just a few simple tools and steps.
1) You will need a dehydrator. Any will do. You can find a simple and inexpensive one at a Value Village, Salvation Army, or whatever second hand store is in your area.
Or you can buy a new one. These vary in price and quality. Keep in mind that this is a valuable piece of kitchen equipment that you will no doubt use for years.Given the area of the country you live in you can also build a solar dehydrator. There are many plans for these on the Internet and you can build them fairly inexpensively. Since I live in the Seattle area, this doesn’t really work for me. We have rain way more than sun 😦 and 100% humidity does not help when you’re trying to dry foods.
2) To keep your potatoes from turning black when drying, you will need lemon juice or citric acid. You can use a commercial anti-oxidant, but I prefer not to go that route. Anti-oxidants always leave a nasty chemical taste that I prefer not to have in my home made food stores. I personally prefer lemon juice. I use this in lieu of salt when canning tomatoes and many other food storage projects. “Real lemon” lemon juice raises the acidity level and doesn’t make all of your home grown, home canned foods taste like supermarket fare.
3) Quite obviously you will also need various other kitchen supplies such as a potato peeler, pot for boiling water, a sharp knife and cutting board, or my choice, a mandolin.
Step 1) Put a pot of water on to boil. You will need one large enough to hold as many potatoes as you can dehydrate at one time. You will have to gauge this for yourself since the variables of dehydrators are numerous.
Step 2) Peel your potatoes into a big bowl or pot containing a mixture of cool water
and lemon juice. The ratio of lemon juice to water isn’t that important at this time, as you are going to blanch or boil them in the next step. This just gives them a head start in keeping them nice and white. If you’re going to make mashed you can even skip the lemon juice. Just hold in cool water until you have enough to boil.
Step 3) If making mashed, you can boil them whole or cut up into uniform chunks to cook evenly.
To make slices for scalloped potatoes I use a mandolin to quickly slice directly into the boiling water. (Caution! Mandolins are extremely sharp and must be used with caution; they will slice and dice you if not used with the proper respect.)
If you are going to use a sharp knife, return the slices to the water/ lemon solution until you have a pot full. The proper thickness is about a quarter inch thick. Any thicker and they will take longer to dehydrate, any thinner and they will be very brittle after drying.
Step 4) Blanching. If making slices (scalloped), you don’t want to cook them through. Just blanch them until they change color from pure white to just a little off. This should take no more than three or four minutes.
Step 5) Remove potatoes from the hot pot and put into a fresh and cold water/lemon bath.
The Ball blue book recommends one quarter cup lemon juice to three quarter cups of water. I find that if I squeeze enough juice in the water that it turns slightly cloudy and smells lemony, then you’re good to go.
Step 6) After letting the potatoes soak for a couple of minutes in your water/lemon solution you can start to load up your dehydrator trays. Be sure to shake off any excess liquid to cut down on the drying time.
Step 7) Dehydrate. It’s that simple. Your drying times will vary according to your machine or method. I use the American Harvester Snack Master with the temperature set at about 110 degrees.
If you want to make your own home made instant mashed potatoes, simply boil the potatoes as you would for fresh mashed, then add powdered nonfat milk. And a ladle or two of the boiling liquid to make a creamy mashed potato mixture. Then spread onto fruit leather tray inserts for your dehydrator. Dry until completely brittle. The mixture will shrink and lift off of the trays easily when completely dried. Break into small pieces and run through a food processor until its the consistency of powder and rice granules.When you want mashed potatoes for dinner, cook as you would any store bought instant mashed. Add some water, butter, fresh milk, and voila! It’s dinner. Just remember that when storing dehydrated foods, it should be done in airtight containers.Failure to do so can result in partial reconstitution and mold or bacteria growth.