Once again, this is how I can potatoes. I do not use the USDA recommended method. I am not a food canning expert and I would love it if someone explained to me why my method is wrong without saying “This is how they say to do it.” Vince and I have discussed this at length because, above all, we want to be safe in what we can, in what we eat and in what we share with Chad for them to eat. I want anyone who receives a jar of my canned food to feel confident that I’ve taken all the safety precautions and it can be consumed without concern for safety.
This morning, as Vince and I were again discussing this issue, he said “Call UGA and ask them!” I said “No! I am not trying to call these people who really don’t have the time to answer questions from home canners.” Vince got online and found one “canning expert” at a university (Not UGA) and called her. She basically regurgitated what’s online and while I’m not sharing her name, I will tell you what she said.
First, the National Center for Home Food Preservation says this:
Procedure: Wash and peel potatoes. Place in ascorbic acid solution to prevent darkening. If desired, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Drain. Cook 2 minutes in boiling water and drain again. For whole potatoes, boil 10 minutes and drain. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with hot prepared potatoes, leaving no more than 1-inch headspace. Cover hot potatoes with FRESH boiling water, leaving 1-inch headspace and covering all pieces of potato. (Caution: Do not use the water you cooked the potatoes in; it contains too much starch.
On another website, I found this in response to a question about raw packing potatoes.
No, potatoes can not be canned raw because they contain too much bacteria. You should always par-boil them for about 10 minutes first in order to ensure they will be safe to eat. Canning potatoes is easier than you might think.
Some websites instruct to parboil the potatoes, even diced, for 10 minutes. I think we all know how canning potatoes that were parboiled for 10 minutes would turn out.
Back to the phone conversation – the lady kept repeating what’s on the internet and explaining how everything has to be hot. “You cannot put cold potatoes and cold water in the jars and put them in hot water!” I understand. I told her that I put cold potatoes in the jars, tap water in the jars, then put tap water in the canner. Her response was that she wasn’t sure, in 35 minutes for pints or 40 minutes for quarts, the inside of the potatoes may not be processed thoroughly. I understand that concern.
Again, I’m no expert but folks . . room temp potatoes, tap water in the jars, tap water in the canner. The canner takes at least 20 minutes to start venting. At this point, it’s seriously boiling. The canner vents for 10 minutes. Again, the water is seriously boiling. The canner takes maybe 10 minutes to get up to pressure. Boiling very hard at this point. Once the canner gets up to pressure, it stays there for 35 minutes. I turn the canner off and it takes maybe 20 minutes for the pressure to drop. Then I leave the lid on for another 10 minutes. Then I remove the lid and let the jars sit there to slowly cool down for about 10 minutes before removing them. By the time the pints come out of the canner, they’ve been in there for close to two hours and for at least one hour the jars have been in very, very hot water.
While talking to the lady on the phone, I said “My main question is this: How does parboiling kill bacteria that pressure canning for 35 minutes doesn’t kill?”
At this point, she told me I was confusing two issues. The parboiling is mainly to keep the potatoes from turning gray before they get cooked in the jar.
You saw the canned potatoes from last year that I had out yesterday for breakfast. They did not turn gray!
Then I said “I have canned without parboiling for several years, even though I understand that is not the approved method.”
At that point, she said something like . . The parboiling also helps make sure the potatoes are cooked thoroughly because if you’re putting cold potatoes in the canner, the correct amount of heat may not reach the center of the potatoes for the correct amount of time. That makes sense to me.
Again, I’m no expert but . . I’ve had jars not seal and I’ve opened them as soon as I realized they weren’t sealed and they are cooked!
NOTE: Vince did get a response from the National Center for Home Food Preservation at UGA to his question:
Parboiling is required to help release some of the starch in the potatoes, reducing clouding and water loss in the canned produce. The processing time was then determined based on the density and texture of those parboiled potatoes. So the parboiling is not necessarily there to reduce bacteria, because as you mentioned, that is accomplished during the processing steps. The parboiling helps to create an even heating and cool down process necessary for safe canning.
Even though she says “parboiling is required”, I’m still skipping that step because I think my method works better. I just don’t agree (again, I’m not an expert) that those potatoes are not as hot by the time the canner comes up to pressure, when I start timing the process, as they would be if I had placed hot potatoes and hot liquid in the jars. I feel like the water in the canner is going to take longer to start boiling because of the cooler temp of the contents of the jars and maybe if I was concerned about the potatoes being processed properly, I would keep the contents under pressure for an extra 5 minutes.
Now . . let’s get into the real “meat and potatoes” of this post.
I’ve found that the type of potatoes, the growing conditions and the age of the potatoes makes a huge difference in the end result of canned potatoes.
This site has a lot of great info on canning potatoes, including the types of potatoes that are best for canning.
I have never canned russet potatoes but most any potatoes I’ve canned that I grew myself were great because they were cured for a couple of weeks and then canned. Potatoes in the grocery store may have been harvested for quite a while. They should be kept in ideal climate controlled storage areas but who knows. One of the reasons I grew potatoes last year and bought so many from Azure Standard and canned them all is because I was getting horrible potatoes from the grocery store.
Please read all you can read and make your own decisions about canning potatoes. Be aware that if you’re raw packing potatoes, it is NOT the recommended method.
Here’s how I can potatoes:
Start with the freshest, least starchy variety of potatoes you can get. Always peel them. I would love to not have to do this step but it has to be done for safety reasons. Cut the peeled potatoes into cubes or strips if you’re wanting fries. Last year I canned a lot of potatoes in the strips for fries. They are great in the air fryer! But packing those strips into jars took more time than dumping handfuls of chunks into jars and, in the end, chunks or strips . . they both taste the same so by the time I was halfway done with canning 100 pounds of potatoes, they were all canned in chunks.
The starch is the culprit but I used a big pot or bowl and had it about halfway full of ice water. I dumped the cubed potatoes in the water and made sure they were covered. I left the cubed potatoes in the water for about 45 minutes. The first time you do this, dip them out and you’ll be surprised how much starch is in the bottom of the soaking vessel. Rinse the potatoes and repeat. I went through the soak/rinse process three times and after that, if there was little starch in the bottom of the container, I packed the potatoes in jars, added salt and water.
At this point, you’re probably asking . . why not just parboil the potatoes and be done with it? Don’t waste the time with all the soaking and rinsing? My answer: I’ve found that the canned potatoes NOT parboiled are a much better quality. Again, from the photo above, you can see that the canning liquid is crystal clear and there is no starch released into the water. In my opinion, boiling cubed potatoes for even 2 minutes, then putting in hot water and holding in water in the canner for the entire process makes for a very mushy potato, and I almost always had a starchy liquid in the jars even after the parboiling.
We are on rural water and it has chlorine in it – sometimes I can smell it when I turn the water on so I try to boil all the water and then let it cool and that removes the chlorine. The chlorine will also evaporate if the water just sits out for half an hour or so but I usually boil it – just to make sure since I’m canning with it.
I fill the jars and process according to directions, or maybe a bit longer if you’re not parboiling the potatoes.
Please understand . . this is how I do them. This is not an approved method of canning potatoes. There can be risks associated with canning anything using any method that is not approved. So . . if you decide to can without parboiling, do so at your own risk and do not blame me if you encounter any problems – ruined potatoes, sickness or worse! OK? Thank you!
RuthW in MD says
Hmm. I have been hoping to become brave enough to can potatoes, even bought some wide mouth quart jars. But I want to put some flavoring herbs in them. I can buy canned potatoes (no flavoring), it’s the herbs I want to know about.
Thank you for this very explicit set of directions on how to pressure can potatoes!! I didn’t know about starch removal. Hmm, russet is my favorite potato to buy. I do like Idaho, white, and Yukon.
Herbs are like adding salt – add what you want. You can use fresh or dried. I’ve never wanted to use an herb that was not safe to can but if you’re using something besides basil, rosemary, oregano and the more common herbs, simply google “Can I use xxx in the jars when canning potatoes?” Some query like that will get you all the answers you need.
By the way, I prefer regular mouth jars for things like potato cubes. The “shoulders” of the jar help keep the potatoes under the liquid.
this is a great point.
Lynn Stolt says
Just wanted to thank you for mentioning the pressure canning book by Angi Schneider. I ordered it and am thrilled with it. Back when I was raising my kids, I did alot of water bath canning. But never any pressure canning. My great grandma, grandmother, aunt etc were all scared to death if pressure canning for fear of it exploding. Now that I’m a grandma myself, a good friend showed me how in December. I love it! And love reading about all you can. Thank you!
Great! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I love hearing that readers like the things I like. Good luck with your canning. I love trying new recipes in the canner.
As an experienced canner who has done one or two things that aren’t sanctioned, I don’t see a problem with what you do. I’ve not done potatoes, but if I wanted to, I would follow your directions and not hold you responsible, because no one would make me do it. If I’d been smart enough to figure it out, I might have canned a lot of potatoes over the years.
I think you are right about the freshness of the potato making a huge difference. I know that some varieties of potato are better for some purposes than other varieties, too, so that makes a difference in how they are canned. I think the reasons I didn’t can them were that cloudiness, and also the mushiness.
Twenty years ago, I think I threw away almost all the potatoes I canned but I kept on . . knowing I had to figure it out some day. I’m really pleased with the potatoes I’ve canned the last few years.
I have been making oven fries for a very long time and had been moderately pleased with them but a new recipe that we tried yesterday was perfect. I cut the russets into fries laid them in a deep tray and covered with boiling water and they sat till cool. Drained and dried then seasoned and cooked. They were terrific. Huge improvement. We have a well here so I don’t have to worry about treated water. Removing some of the starch made a big difference.
Great idea! After they cool down, can you see starch in the bottom of the container? I would never have thought of that!
How I wish we had a well here!
Cilla HouleTyler says
I can potatoes as you do except I have canned Russets. Starchy but good for mashed. Yukon I do not peel, cut in chucks, Reds the same. I tried dry packing with a pat of butter. I do not like the texture. I can many items not the “recommended” way.
Cilla! You’re back! I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes so I don’t make them often but it’s nice that we can all do whatever we like.
The All New Ball Book of Canning, on page 278 has raw pack recipes for potatoes. I was told that the Ball books all have tested recipes. I would feel fine raw packing potatoes.
I just got the book and hadn’t even read that. Thank you. I know what the experts say – because you’ve done something a million times and never got sick, that doesn’t mean it’s right but . . for me, I’m raw packing potatoes from now on. If Ball says it’s ok, that’s good enough for me.