Thursday, September 23, 2010

Potato Harvest

It’s potato harvest time in Idaho. This is it for Idaho! The big finale to all the hard work through the last three months. Kids love it because in most potato growing areas they get out of school for up to 2 weeks for potato harvest vacation. Teens love it because they have a chance to get a job working in the potatoes and make money. Moms love it because finally we have fresh potatoes to get us through the next few months. And Dads love it because now they get potatoes with their meat and potatoes. And most everyone loves when it’s over!

Here are a few tips about storing and using potatoes:

Potatoes will keep well if stored in a cool place for about 5 or 6 months. The cooler place they are stored in the longer they keep. Once potatoes get below 40º though, the starch changes to sugar and the flavor of the potato changes. Once potatoes start to sprout in the spring, you can prolong their life a little by keeping the sprouts pulled off of the potatoes. If you have access to fresh Idaho potatoes from a farmer or someone who sells the potatoes, you can buy a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $10 or under. It’s a great investment. There are several different varieties such as russets, Yukon golds, Reds, and Shepodys to name a few. My favorite are the russets for baking, mashed, hash browns, scalloped or a’gratin potatoes and for general use. The Shepody potatoes make great French fries but don’t store as long. The Reds are good any way you fix them, my favorite uses are potato salads, roasted and creamed. Yukon Gold potatoes are a fun variety if you like them.

Potatoes can be bottled. I’ve done this a time or two and found that, 1) it’s a lot of work and 2) the end result isn’t as good as other potatoes but it is an option. It does provide you with bottled potatoes for a quick dinner. If canning potatoes, try to get small potatoes to can. The smaller they are the better they turn out.

Potatoes don’t freeze well. However there are a few exceptions. Twice baked potatoes (stuffed potatoes as some people call them) seem to freeze pretty good. I like to fill my oven with up to 25 potatoes and bake them, stuff them and wrap them for the freezer. This is especially a good idea towards spring if you still have potatoes left and are worried about them going soft.

I have dried potatoes and they work well. If you wish to dry potatoes you can dice or shred them, rinse well in cold water, blanch for a couple of minutes (steam blanch shredded potatoes) and they dry nicely. Leftover mashed potatoes can also be dried on a fruit leather tray until dry and powdery then used as a thicking.

Because I have always lived close to fresh potatoes, I have never grown russets in my garden so I like to buy some reds to use and to save some for seed in the spring. These are the ones I’ll use in my “potatoes in a barrel” in the spring next year.

Here are some of my favorite Potato Recipes:

5 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, sliced thin
6 T. butter or margarine
1/3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 T. minced fresh parsley
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c. chicken broth
Place potatoes and onions on a large piece of heavy duty foil (20”x20”) and dot with butter. Combine the cheese, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper; sprinkle over potatoes. Fold foil up around potatoes an add broth. Seal edges of foil well. Grill over coals or bake in 350º oven 40-45 minutes or till potatoes are tender.


6 medium to large baking potatoes
½ cube butter
1 c. sour cream
1 c. ranch dressing
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. grated cheese
Scrub potatoes well and pierce with the tip of a knife. Bake (do not wrap in foil) at 350º for 1 ½ hours or till potatoes feel done when squeezed. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop pulp from center of potatoes, saving skins. Combine butter, sour cream and dressing and mash well, salting generously. Add pepper as you wish. When creamy and smooth, replace potatoes in skins and press in slightly. Top with grated cheese and heat under broiler or in warm oven till cheese is melted. To freeze, wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Hash Browns and Onions
Peel and shred 5-6 large baking potatoes. In a colander, rinse under cold running water until water runs clear and starch is gone. In large non-stick frying pan, melt 1 cube of butter. Add 1 large onion, diced and cook over medium heat about 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stir well, cooking for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and cover; cook until potatoes are tender. Gently stir potatoes occasionally so that all potatoes are evenly cooked, but be careful not to make them mushy by stirring to hard. For crispier potatoes, remove lid for last few minutes of cooking.

Creamy Potato Soup
6-7 medium to large potatoes
1 cube butter (less if your are making a smaller batch)
1 large onion
4 T. flour
Up to 1 quart of milk
Cubed ham
Crisp fried bacon, optional
Grated Cheddar Cheese
Peel potatoes and shred with large shredded attachment (can slice or dice if you wish). Rinse well to remove starch. Cover with water, add 1-2 t. salt and boil till barely tender. Remove from heat and drain. Meanwhile, melt butter and sauté onion in butter till tender. Add flour to butter and onion to make thickening. Stir together well and cook a minute or so. Add milk, gradually, to flour mixture, stirring well. Cool and stir until mixture boils and thickens, adding more milk if necessary. Pour sauce over potatoes, add ham or bacon, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, stirring to avoid scorching. If desired stir in cheese or top individual bowls with cheese and crumbled bacon.

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