* This post is part of my “Make Ahead Holidays,” series, which will go through Christmas. I will tell you how to make the big day(s) less rushed, and how to make your feast cost the least. At the end of the post, I will tell you how to prepare your mashed potatoes ahead of time for the holidays, and serve them hot with no mess, and no re-heating!
There is a domestic urban myth that potatoes cannot be frozen. Now, you can’t just slice a potato and freeze it, that’s true, it must be treated, but frozen potatoes are a glorious convenience food, and a great way to stock up when prices are almost a give away.
I’ve been known to buy a 50 pound bag of potatoes before. (You can’t blame me . . . they were only 10 cents a pound.) When I buy things in such large amounts, I think of two things. In this instance, I first thought, how do I use potatoes? Next, I wondered which method for preserving do I use first? I always have a game plan when dealing with bulk food.
To answer my first question, my answers were:
chunked in soups
both shredded and sliced in casseroles
Here are the ways I answered my second question, and how I preserved the potatoes:
Refrigeration – that’s the fastest way to keep them fresh (potatoes keep a long time)
Dehydration- this takes the longest, so I needed to get potatoes in the dehydrator quickly, so I could dehydrate several batches. I ended up dehydrating my potatoes in slices, shredded, and also made potato powder.
Freezing – I can get a large amount of potatoes preserved at once with this method. I made mashed potatoes and froze. (I used some of my mashed potatoes as a base for Shepherd’s pie, which I made for future dinners. If you want to dehydrate mashed potatoes, please see my post on potato powder first.) I froze potatoes in smaller chunks for pot pies, medium chunks for soups and stews, larger chunks for roasting. I cut into steak fries and froze them into portions.
Canning – This takes the longest, so I saved it for last. I canned some of these potatoes, but unless it’s canned in something, like a soup, I discovered I don’t like them canned. Unfortunately, I canned 7 quarts.
For freezing and dehydrating raw potatoes, you need lemon juice. I would suggest bottled lemon juice because it’s less expensive than fresh.
Bring a pot of water to a boil with some lemon juice. Don’t overdo it with the juice. You obviously aren’t looking to flavor the potatoes with lemon, you just need enough to benefit from the acid. If I’m using a 4 quart pot of water, I would add 2 TBSPs of lemon juice.
Add potatoes. Processing time for potatoes will be determined on the size of your potatoes. You aren’t cooking them, just stopping enzyme action to prevent discoloration. I would say for steak fries, 45 seconds, just to give you an idea.
Plunge potatoes in ice water with more lemon. This stops the cooking process.
I put my potatoes on baking sheets and stick them in the freezer. This is called “flash freezing,” which allows ice crystals to form around each piece of food, preventing the food from sticking together in a clump in the freezer.
After the food is frozen, I place in vacuum seal bags to prevent freezer burn.
Freezing mashed potatoes is easy. I just make a giant batch, place in vacuum seal bags, and freeze before sealing. After the mashed potatoes are frozen in the bag, I seal. I will be making my mashed potatoes ahead of time for the holidays. With Foodsaver bags, you can just drop the bag of potatoes in the water, and heat right in the bag. This makes your holiday cooking much easier with mashed potatoes out of the way! No peeling, no mess! You just squeeze out hot mashed potatoes into the serving bowl. After the potatoes have heated, I leave them in the hot water until I’m ready to serve.
Mashed potatoes get cold quickly, and I was always re-heating them when everyone finally sat down. Everyone will be amazed at this trick, as you squeeze hot potatoes into the bowl. What was an urban myth, can now make you a legend.