Potatoes -- Fresh and Frozen
Posted: August 27, 2012
Store potatoes in a cool, dark place that is well ventilated. The ideal storage temperature is 45 to 50°F. Refrigerated potatoes stored below 40°F will develop a sweet taste due to the conversion of starch to sugar. This increase in sugar will cause potatoes to darken when cooked—especially at high temperatures. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator is not recommended but, if you do, letting the potatoes warm gradually to room temperature before cooking can reduce the discoloration.
Sometimes you will find purple discoloration in the center and veins of some potatoes. This is caused by cold temperatures which could be related to harvesting as well as home storage. The potato is perfectly fine to eat.
Prolonged exposure to light causes potatoes to turn green. The green on the skin of the potato is the build-up of a chemical called Solanine. It produces a bitter taste and, if eaten in large quantities, can cause illness. However, because of the bitter taste, one is unlikely to eat enough to cause illness. If there is slight greening, cut away the green portions of the potato before cooking and eating it.
Can potatoes be frozen? The results depend upon the type of potato used, its age, and your standards of taste. When a potato is frozen, the water in the potato separates from the starch causing the reheated potato dish to be watery. Nevertheless, if you have lots of potatoes you may want to try it. Prepare a small quantity first to see what you think of the results.
Choose new, smaller potatoes of the waxy type such as red or gold potatoes. It is best to freeze them as soon as they are harvested from the garden. Wash and scrub the potatoes leaving the skins on, if desired. Blanch 4 to 6 minutes if smaller than 1 to 1½ inches in diameter and 8 to 10 minutes if larger. The potato needs to be heated through completely to stop enzymes reactions. Inadequate heating will result in the center of the potato turning dark. Cool, drain, pack, and freeze. To cook, add the frozen potatoes to enough boiling water to cover and cook about 15 minutes or until tender.
Commercially made French Fries are fast-frozen giving a different quality than home frozen fries. To make them at home, select mature potatoes which have been stored at least 30 days. Cut the cleaned potatoes into 3/8 inch strips. Rinse them quickly in cold water to remove the surface starch. Drain well. Spread the strips in a single layer on a shallow pan and brush with melted butter, margarine, or oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 450°F until golden brown and tender. Turn occasionally. Cool in the refrigerator; then pack, label, and freeze. To cook the frozen fries, bake on a shallow pan in a preheated 450° oven until brown and tender. Turn occasionally. Salt to taste. Instead of the first baking, small amounts of French fries can be fried in deep, hot fat (360°F) for about 5 minutes until tender but not brown.
Prepared cooked potatoes tend to lose flavor rapidly when frozen and should be stored for only a few weeks. For freezing, mashed potatoes are prepared as usual, quickly cooled and formed in ½ inch thick patties. These patties are then frozen on a cookie sheet before being packed into containers or freezer bags. To serve, they can be fried in butter until brown or brushed with melted fat and broiled. They may also be defrosted in the microwave oven, topped with cheese, and cooked at 80% power until they are hot and the cheese is melted. Scalloped potatoes can be made as usual and baked until almost tender and a delicate brown color. Leave in the baking dish. Cool quickly and cover surface with moisture-resistant paper before freezing. To use, partially thaw or bake un-thawed. Bake at 400°F until heated through. Add milk if necessary.
Another idea is to prepare stuffed baked potatoes. Simply remove the cooked potato from the skin, mash it and return it to the skin before wrapping and freezing. To serve, remove the wrap and bake in a 425°F oven for 30 minutes. These are best used within 2 to 4 weeks.