Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Storing Potatoes, Onions and Squash ...

You may remember that last year I started using our "Hobbit Hole" as a root cellar.  Well, it turned out that it was not that brilliant an idea after all (sorry, FitzGyver).  The humidity during our winter months (otherwise known as the monsoon season) was way too high out there and a lot of my produce ended up getting moldy.  After assessing other areas I found that the area in the garage where I have my pantry storage will also work well for root cellaring.  The temperature in the summer doesn't go above 60 degrees and in the winter months it stays above 45 degrees with an average humidity of about 50%.

Before S&S Produce closed for the season I bought 50  pounds of red potatoes and 50 pounds of Yukon Golds.  Steve brings these in at the end of the season especially for people who plan to store them over the winter months ... they've been kept cold and in the dark.  And at 36 cents a pound it's definitely worth finding room for them. They last pretty well as long as I keep them covered and when I start noticing signs that they are beginning to sprout I can use other forms of preserving (more about that later in this post).

I also bought 50 pounds of onions at 28 cents a pound.  If I rotate the bag once a week so the ones on the bottom move to the top these onions will last until spring.

I bought hard squash at 50 cents a pound ... I use the delicatas and acorns first as they have the shorted storage life ... the butternuts will last for months.

I guess I ought to explain my rationale behind buying as opposed to growing these.  I have grown all of these in my garden so I've proved to myself that if the SHTF I can grow them if I need to.  But at these prices I prefer to use my garden space for other things.  And all of the produce was grown in Washington or Oregon so it meets my criteria for "buy local :).

Now, about preserving ... some of the Yukon Golds on the top of the box are just beginning to sprout a bit so I am freezing them a few at a time as I find ones that need it (I check the boxes carefully once a week).  Yes, I could can them but I really don't like the texture of canned potatoes (I am going to dehydrate some of them).     
I did a batch this week that I diced to be used in soups and stews or for fried breakfast potatoes.

I peeled and diced the potatoes and set them in a bowl of cold water (keeps them from discoloring) while I prepared a pot of boiling water.

I then transferred the potatoes to a colander, placed it in the pot of boiling water and blanched the potatoes for 3 minutes (if you freeze raw potatoes the will become mealy).

After three minutes I placed the colander in my kitchen sink which had been filled with ice water.

When the potatoes were cold I placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (the potatoes stick to the metal sheet but are easy to separate from the parchment ... and the parchment can be reused) and blotted off excess water with a clean kitchen towel.

I put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 6 hours and then popped the potatoes off of the parchment ...

And sealed them in freezer bags with my Food saver.

As more of the potatoes need to be preserved I'm going to do some as sliced for Potatoes Au Gratin and others I will mash with butter and milk and freeze to have mashed potatoes ready to thaw whenever I need them.


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