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Meat and fruits are perhaps the most common foods to dehydrate, resulting in jerky and trail mix with months of shelf life. Some go past these staples of survivalist food to dehydrate several types of vegetables too, like dried potatoes. Processed into flakes for mashed potatoes, cubes for soups, and slices for potato chips, this method can help potatoes last months past harvest time.
According to the U.S. Potato Board, flakes, cubes and slices are just the most common permutations of dried potatoes. Also available are shredded and granulated varieties. A dried potato flour is manufactured as a thickener and substitute for various baking goods. In every form, this food remains free of salt, fat and cholesterol.
Dried potatoes have longevity as well. If stored properly, most types can last as long as two years without spoiling, which is about twice as long as most other vegetables. The fresher the potatoes used to make dried varieties, the longer they will keep.
At-home preparations are generally confined to sliced and diced styles. Fresh potatoes are peeled and cut into thin slices of about 0.125 inch (or 3.2 mm) or diced into tiny cubes 0.125 inch (or 3.2 mm) square. These are then blanched in boiling saltwater for five to eight minutes. After drying, the potatoes are placed either on oiled racks in a dehydrator or greased cookie sheets in an oven set to its lowest temperature. A few hours might be all that is needed if using a food dehydrator, whereas an oven might take another hour or more. For an oven, the door is left ajar so the heat can escape, which will dry out the potatoes without cooking them.
With fruits and even meats, drying in the sun is also an acceptable and time-honored method. Dried potatoes and other vegetables, however, lack the high acid and sugar content necessary for this process. An oven or dehydrator are the two methods recommended by experts for dehydrating most vegetables. The food is considered done when the dried potatoes take on a dry, crumbly texture, accomplished at an ideal dehydrated moisture content of 10 percent.
For more ambitious varieties of dried potatoes, many turn to manufactured styles. The process for making these other types involves milling the potatoes into specifically shaped pieces. Most people do not have the tools needed for shredding then grinding a potato into flour or tiny flakes. Nevertheless, after the process is complete, this food should be kept in an airtight container in a dark and cool location like the basement or a cupboard.
I never liked the taste of mashed potatoes made from dried potato flakes when I was young, but now I keep a box or two of instant potatoes on hand in case I run out of other side dishes. They've improved the flavor and texture considerably over the past 40 years. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between reconstituted potatoes and my wife's homemade mashed potatoes made from the real thing.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, our local Methodist relief organization started assembling emergency food buckets. One of the items included in those buckets was dried potato flakes. My church helped fill plastic containers with dried potato powder stored in huge canvas bags. I couldn't believe how many tons of unsold potatoes were dehydrated every year.
The recipients of these food buckets only needed to add some hot water to reconstitute the mashed potatoes, then add butter and whatever seasonings they had on hand to improve the flavor. I think most of our donations went straight to emergency food kitchens set up in the 9th Ward.
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