Monday, September 23, 2013

Drying Potato Slices

Dehydrating Potato Slices

We plant a lot of potatoes. The problem is, figuring out what to do with the small ones that are too small for baking. Some of them get thrown into the crockpot either whole or halved, but the majority of them are being dried and stored for making scalloped potatoes throughout the year. There is rumors that these dried slices can sit on a shelf for well over 10 to 15 years, however, in our house they will probably not last even one. Drying fruits and vegetables (as well as meats) has been practiced for centuries, long before Ball or Mason began making jars for canning. In fact, in many parts of the world, drying food is still the only way to preserve and store it. There is a few different methods that our family uses to dry foods. The sun, the stove, and an electric dehydrator. Cris likes to lay herbs out in the sun to dry, while I prefer to use the Nesco or the stove to make jerky, or dehydrate fruits and veggies. When using the sun method, it is typically good to have a slight breeze (especially if you are drying meat to help keep the flies away). This year, we had an abundance of extra red potatoes and a few golds to slice up. So this is how we did it. 

Here is the box of extras.

First we peel and wash the potatoes prior to slicing. Some people prefer to leave the peels on because they are a good source of nutrition, however our children will not eat them if we do, so we just try to make dinner time a tad less whinny. 

All peeled and ready for the mandolin 

We are extra careful when using the mandolin. Taking a little extra time to be safe can help prevent having finger slices to put on the rack (they take longer to dehydrate) We like to make the slices about 1/8 inch thick, but the thickness can vary. The only difference will be in the drying time. The most important part is the uniformity. Making the slices the same thickness will ensure that they will all finish drying at about the same time. Having said that, don't throw away the ones that are not slicing evenly, you will just have to keep a closer eye on the drying process and check them more often.

After slicing the potatoes, it was time to blanch them. Typical blanching times vary from 5 to 9 minutes (I did 7 minutes). Now here is the tricky part. This stage of the whole process is when "you" determine how fragile the slices will be to work with. We actually left the potatoes in about a minute too long, which resulted in very fragile slices that were breaking constantly (even while stirring). Sample the slices often after the first few minutes to try to make sure they are soft, but not easily broken. They should snap softly, not crumble.  

When were done (or in our case overdone), we drained them and then plunged them in an ice bath to stop the blanching process. Leave the slices in this water for about 10 minutes. 

After cooling in the ice water, we drained them off with a strainer and placed them gently on a clean cheesecloth dish towel and patted them dry.

Then the slices were carefully placed on the racks for dehydrating. It took about 5 hours to dry, while rotating the trays and flipping the slices numerous times throughout. I'm pretty sure that we turn and rotate more often than we need to, but that's just the way we roll.

Now all that is left is to make some sauce to bake them in. Thinking we might try a good Cheesy Bacon Scalloped Potato recipe this fall. Let us know what recipes are your favorite.

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