Since potatoes are available all year round and are fairly inexpensive, they are usually not on the list of vegetables to be canned. But, if you grow your own organic produce, canning is a fantastic way to make those spuds last well beyond their cold cellar days.
Plus, once you have those taters canned, they can be used to make any dish in a snap, including mashed potatoes and even French fries and hash browns. So, here are step by step instructions and all other information you will need for canning potatoes. Let’s start with the first question of the day.
Is it possible to can potatoes without a pressure canner?
One of the reasons why even the most ardent canning enthusiasts shy away from preserving potatoes is because the regular technique used for naturally acidic foods does not work with these tubers. Like all other low-acidity produce (pH above 4.6); think most vegetables and non-citrus, non-sour fruits here, potatoes cannot be canned with hot water bath processing alone.
In the absence of natural/added acids, as is the case with jams, pickles and citrus fruits, there is nothing to impede the growth of Botulism spores. In the hot-water-bath method, the jars are merely kept submerged in boiling water for 15-90 minutes. However, regardless of the time spent in the water bath, the temperature never rises above 212 degrees F because that is the boiling point of water.
But, the spores of Clostridium botulinum only die when exposed to a minimum temperature of 240 degrees F. So, unless you intend to freeze those canned taters, you will have to use a pressure canner in the preservation process.
Pressure canning potatoes isn’t as hard as they make it out to be!
The actual process of pressure canning is not difficult at all. In fact, it is not very different from hot water bath processing, in the sense that it involves placing the filled-jars in hot water. The only difference is that you will be using a pressurized utensil that raises the internal temperature of the jars to at least $240 degrees F.
Because constant pressure has to be maintained, pressure canning is a more hands-on process. So, you will have to be in front of the stove to tweak the temperature as needed to maintain the required pressure.
But the time and the effort are totally worth it because unlike pickled foods or even jams, low-acidity preserves actually retain the taste of the fresh produce. Moreover, pressure canning offers a longer shelf life than high-acidity canning.
How to can potatoes?
As with all other types of cooking, it’s best to get the equipment together, before starting the process. You will need:
- A pressure canner
- Canning jars (pint/quart)
- Canning lid/seals and rings
- Large pot for blanching (about 12 qt)
- Smaller pot for boiling water (10 qt)
- Potato peeler
- A ladle
- A large salad bowl or smaller bowls for holding the chopped potatoes
- Sharp knife
- Jar lifting tongs
- Canning funnel (optional) and only needed if using a pyrex cup for pouring boiling water into the jars
- Canning knife
- Magnetic lid lifter
- Colander for draining
- Clean towels and dishcloth
Place the pressure canner and both the pots on the stove-top at the same time, to ensure that there is enough room for all. Also, make sure that you have enough clearance around the pressure canner to place and remove the jars from the pot without hitting any other appliance. As far as the ingredients go, this is what you will need:
- Potatoes- you will need about 2 lbs. per quart or -1 lb. per pint. So, get enough potatoes by weight to fill the jars that you have.
- Canning salt- 1 tsp. per jar. This is optional and has no bearing on the canning process or the lifespan of the canned goods. It’s just for taste.
- Lemon juice or Fruit Fresh (1 cup lemon juice/2 tbsp. Fruit Fresh/ gallon of water). This is not to increase the acidity of the spuds but to stop them from going brown while you complete the canning process
Step 1: Choosing the potatoes
- Small and medium-sized potatoes are the best but you can also pick large tubers. If you intend to pack them whole, go for spuds that are about 1-2 inches in diameter. If you pick anything larger, you will have to dice them (more on that coming up in a bit).
- For canning, avoid potatoes with too many green and/or black spots and those that seem shriveled.
- In terms of variety, you can work with all types of taters, including red, yellow and white-skinned. However, the less starchy kind (red-skinned) stores really well and is absolutely delicious after canning.
Step 2: Getting the equipment ready
- Wash all the equipment, including the pots, ladle, peeler, colander, jars and any spoons or bowls that you may need.
- Sterilize the canning jars and the lids either by placing them in boiling water for 10 minutes or by running them through the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher.
- Fill both the pots and the pressure canner with water and place on the stove. Place the pots on high heat because you will need boiling water.
- The canner should be set on low heat without the lid on. You are just getting it ready for when it is needed. Don’t forget to place the canning base in the pressure canning pot.
Step 3: Prepping the taters
- Mix a gallon of water with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh in a large salad bowl and set it aside. The bowl should be big enough to hold all the chopped spuds.
- Wash and scrub all the potatoes using lukewarm water. Then, peel and carve out all discolored and soft spots as well as the eyes.
- Cut large potatoes into 1-inch cubes; medium-sized tubers can be cut into quarters. Usually, inch pieces get overcooked, particularly if you are canning at higher altitudes. Remember to keep the cubes fairly uniform for best canning results.
- Soak the potato cubes in the lemon water to stop them from turning brown due to exposure to oxygen.
- Drain right before the next step.
Step 4: Before canning potatoes
- If the water in the large pot is boiling, put the potato cubes (drained from the lemon water) in it.
- Give the tubers about 2 minutes in the boiling water if you have cut them into 1-inch cubes and about 8-10 minutes if you are using them whole or in quarters. This step is for blanching and not for actually cooking the tubers.
- Drain the potatoes using a colander.
Step 5: Filling the jars
- Put the blanched cubes into the jars, filling the jar till you have no more than an inch of room on top. This head space is needed to accommodate the expansion during pressure canning.
- Fill the jars with the boiling water from the smaller pot. The potato cubes should be completely covered by the boiling water but you should still leave 1 inch of head space on top.
- Put the canning knife inside the jar and move it around the sides of the jar, pushing the potatoes slightly to remove trapped air, if any.
- Remove the knife and wipe the rims clean.
Step 6: Start the canning process
- Put the lids on the jars and seal them using the rings. Make sure that the lids are screwed on snugly; there is no need to bear down on them with all your might.
- At this point, the water in the pressure canner may have reduced some. In this case, add just enough hot tap water to get to 4 inches of water in the pressure pot.
- Place the jars in the canner, spacing them so they don’t touch each other. Use the jar lifter for this to avoid touching the hot pot.
- Put the lid of the canner on the pot as per manufacturer directions.
- Keep the vent on the lid open, allowing the canner to vent steam for 10 minutes.
- Then, close the vent and wait till the pressure hits 10- 11 lbs. (weighted-dial gauge canner)
- Once you have the desired pressure, set the alarm for 35 minutes and turn the heat down to medium to maintain the pressure. (High heat= high pressure; low heat= low pressure)
- You may need to make minor adjustments to the heat to keep the pressure steady. This step is stove specific and you will know the sweet spot for your stove after the first few batches.
Step 7: After the canning
- Once the timer goes off, switch off the stove and wait for the pressure gauge to read zero. Don’t open the vent to rush the process.
- When the pressure drops to zero, set the timer for 10 minutes and then open the lid of the canner.
- Lift the jars using the tongs and place them on a wooden cutting board or on the counter with towels underneath.
- You want them to cool naturally without being bumped or jostled.
- Once the jars are at room temperature, remove the rings or at least loosen them to prevent rusting
- Check the seals on the jars. They have to be sucked down. Press on the center; if the lid pops up and down, it is not sealed. Do this with each jar.
- Those that are properly sealed can be stored in a cool dark place. Those that haven’t been sealed should be placed in the refrigerator immediately.
A few things to remember
- Although you can make do with BBQ tongs and thick rubber gloves, it is highly recommended that you invest in a canning kit that comes with the jar lifting tongs.
- There is no need to sterilize the rings of the jars as they don’t touch the produce anyway. Sterilizing makes them too hot to handle when you need to put them on the jars.
- Crack open the windows in your kitchen when canning, as things can get uncomfortable with so many pots with boiling water in them.
- You can raw pack potatoes (don’t blanch) but remember that the vegetable will shrink, soften and absorb water as it’s put through the canning process. This means that the jars may not be as full as you intended, and you may end up with lower water levels.
- Also, raw packing can cause some starchy sediments at the bottom of the jar. This may be an aesthetic problem but is otherwise harmless.
- For pressure and time settings according to altitude and quantity, see information here.
Be warned; now that you know how to can potatoes, you may get addicted to those canned tubers. For starters, they taste just as good as fresh produce. And if that is not enough, you will find that your cooking time will be reduced greatly if you use canned taters, even more so than if you were to microwave the spuds. So, canning potatoes is worth the time and effort you invest into it.
Be sure to also check out our post on how to can onions!