Today was a beautiful day to harvest potatoes. It rained last night, so the top few inches of soil were easily workable. I was able to dig all of the potatoes out by hand, with some help at the end thanks to my husband and eldest son. I’ve definitely learned a few things.

1. I won’t buy “seed potatoes” from anywhere ever again. They gave me runty little potatoes just like the runty little potatoes I bought. Next year I’ll just sprout out some regular grocery potatoes and plant them.

2. I need to fertilize better. There were a lot of tiny potatoes in the roots that looked like they never developed. I’m guessing the plants ran out of nutrients. Since the potatoes were the first things in, I didn’t fertilize them much before they were done. Next year I’m going to try to set up a barrel for compost tea. That should help me get bigger, better yields.

3. Grubs are assholes. They ate about 10% of my crop. I fed every one I found to the chickens – sweet revenge.

As far as yields go, I think we did pretty well. I planted 2.5 pounds of white and 2.5 pounds of red. We ended up with 12.5 pounds of white and 15 pounds of red. That’s around a 1:7 ratio, which is what I had hoped for. I know it would have been more if I had fertilized better. Live and learn.

I spent the better part of the morning putting up these potatoes by canning them. Here’s how I did it.

First I rinsed and scrubbed all of the potatoes clean under running water. I used a regular kitchen scrub brush that I keep by the sink. The potatoes went straight to a towel spread on the counter.

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Then I cut off all the bad spots and diced the potatoes into equalish chunks. As I diced, I put them into a large bowl with cold water and a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning.

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While I diced, I had my pressure canner heating up on the stove top with about 4″ of water. I also had a stock pot with water coming to a boil. My jars, lids, and rings were freshly washed and sitting ready for me on a towel on the counter. When I finished dicing the potatoes, I gave them one good rinse under cold water and started packing them raw into the waiting jars.

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I can fit seven quart jars in my canner at a time, so I didn’t bother filling any more jars than that for the first load. The potatoes that I didn’t use were put into a fresh bowl of water with a dash of lemon juice until the first batch was done. To the potatoes in the jar, I added a pinch of salt each, purely for taste.

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I wiggled and gently banged each jar down to pack as many potatoes as I could into each jar. They settled a lot. Once I was satisfied that they were full and seasoned appropriately, I brought over my stock pot of boiling water and ladled water in to the bottom ring of the jar. Again, I wiggled each jar to bring up air bubbles and make sure the water was throughout.

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With the jars packed completely, I tossed the lids that I would need into the boiling hot water in the stock pot. They only need a few moments to soften up, so while I waited I swabbed a clean, damp cloth around the top of each jar to clean away any water or debris. Once I was sure of a good seal, I carefully put a lid on each jar and twisted the ring around to seal it finger-tight. As I twisted them closed, I loaded them into the pressure canner.

When all of the jars were in the canner, I put the lid on tight. I let the canner steam freely for several minutes.

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Once it had vented enough and there was a constant issue of steam coming out, I put on the weight, with the 10 pound side down. The canner slowly moved from zero to ten pounds pressure. Once there, I set my timer for 40 minutes and turned down the heat so the weight wasn’t jiggling too much. If you’ve never canned before, stay with your canner the first few times. It’s a scary sound at first, but you’ll be fine. Even though I had the pressure weight in place, a hot stove could potentially make the canner increase pressure, altering the result of my finished canned product. I’ve learned over the years what sounds are good and which are bad by experience – there’s no better teacher.

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When my 40 minute timer went off, I turned off the burner and very carefully moved the canner to a trivet. If you don’t have a steady hand, just leave the canner in place. I waited a bit for the pressure gauge to read zero again, then I removed the weight while wearing an oven mitt. That sucker’s hot – never remove it with your bare hands! A few moments later, and it sounded like all of the pressure had finally released. I opened the canner and carefully lifted out my bounty.

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I used about 11.5 pounds to make exactly 10 quarts of potatoes. You’ll notice that I didn’t bother peeling the potatoes before processing them. My reasons for this are two-fold. For one, I’m lazy. Peeling takes work. Two, the peels are where half of the nutrients are located! Why would I chuck them when they’re so good for us? Did you know that half of the fiber in a potato is in its skin? They also contain potassium, B vitamins, and calcium.

Tomorrow I’ll finish processing the red potatoes. For now, they’re sitting in my big, metal bowl on the counter. We brushed the dirt off with our fingers as we picked them, but I won’t wash or scrub them until I’m ready to process them. Dirt is full of nasty bacteria – I don’t need to introduce that to the flesh of the potato by accident.

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Thanks for stopping  by to see how I process my potatoes!

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