It’s use it or lose it time here in the potato department…so we’re going to use it! Whether you’re getting to the bottom of your homegrown bounty or lucked into a super deal at the grocery, freezing potatoes in any form (french fries, chunks, etc…) is a great way to cut your prep time later and save your harvest! There is another method for shredded hash browns, but we’ll play with that another day. For now let’s get some french fries in the freezer (and in my belly) and learn just how easy it is to render potato starch!
You really don’t need fancy equipment for this, but I like my gadgets. Every gardener, in my opinion, should own a mandoline slicer, but in case you don’t have one or a specialty french fry press just use a knife and cut as consistently as you can. After all, what more can you do? Let them rot? Nope. Use what you have.
My potatoes need to be peeled, but if you like the peel and it’s in good shape, leave it! There’s a lot of nutrition in there! Then slice however you prefer. Today we’re working on fries (so that’s how I’ll refer to our cut potatoes), but you can use this same technique for whatever your family will use.
My mandoline has different inserts to adjust the size so I go for between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. They’re not shoe-string fries, but not like steak fries, either.
As you slice your potatoes add them to a big bowl/pan of cold water. I started out slicing directly into my water, but a few snags sent water all over my counter and I started using a separate bowl.
The soaking has two functions:
- It keeps the first cuts from browning as you continue with the rest
- It helps get some of the starch out. If you ask me, you can’t make crispy fries with starchy potatoes. So even if only making a few for dinner I don’t skip this step!
I look at the clock when I start. I’m only going to make as many fries as I can get soaking in a half an hour. I usually get about what I want in closer to 15 minutes, though. Once you add the last of what you’ve prepped, you want to let them soak for a half an hour. (Try not to let them soak more than hour at room temp. Just cover them and put them in the fridge if you need to). That’s why I only prep for a half hour…so the first ones are not more than an hour old. Does that make any sense?
I use whatever I’ve accumulated in the prep to weigh down and cover my soaking fries.
Remove your fries by the handful and dry them. I know. It takes time, but it’s necessary. From here forward we are trying to remove as much liquid as possible.
Once you have dried your fries use your towel to transfer them into a bowl large enough to toss them around and drizzle with oil (I’m using vegetable oil right now because it’s on hand, but olive oil, etc…will work fine).
I’d say I used about 4 Tbsp. for this batch. Just a light coating is what you’re going for. Toss them around gently until you’re satisfied they’re all coated.
Look! the icicles are finally melting! Don’t look at my dirty window, just the icicles…oh, yeah…french fries…
Now spread them on baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees just until they start to brown a bit. Just beginning to brown! We’re not trying to cook them, just bake out the liquid!
You’ll notice in the pic that I lined my baking sheet with wax paper. I would not recommend doing that! I’ve used parchment paper before and that worked fine, but the wax paper was giving off a smell and seemed to be smoking a bit (or it was something in the bottom of my oven 😉 ). Whatever it actually was, I removed the paper at my first flipping.
Every 7 or 8 minutes you’ll want to gently flip them around, and continue that until you’re browning starts. I ended up flipping these 3 times before they were done, so total they were in there 20-25 minutes.
Immediately remove from pans to absorbent paper or a towel and allow them to cool to room temp. If you leave them in the pans they will be soggy on the bottom.
You can cook them now for dinner, or when they are cooled COMPLETELY spread them back on the cookie sheets and freeze.
There is no pic for this step, but just spread them in a single layer and put in the freezer…nothing special.
Again, you’ll have to flip them around occasionally to be sure they’re not sticking together.
Do you see the frost lines on my cookie sheet? I apparently didn’t let them cool completely before freezing. It’s not the worst thing in life, I promise! Just know there will be moisture caught under the fry if you rush it!
When frozen solid (about four hours in my regular freezer, 2 1/2-3 in my deep freeze) bag them up! Make sure to label them. Work quickly, taking out only a sheet at time. If they start to thaw you run the risk of them sticking together in the bag, and we want to be able to remove only what we want to use at a time. I would try to use them up within about 4 months or so, but I’ve used some closer to 8 months old and they fried up fine. They just had a bit of ice in the bag and splattered a bit more.
Tonight this pregnant belly of mine ate a whole plate, fried in about a half-inch of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet. I drained them on a towel and salted the crap out of them.
I think it’s federal law that at some point in your pregnancy you must have homemade fries drizzled with queso. I’m pretty sure it might be daily during the second trimester!
Waste Not, Want Not Bonus: Rendering Potato Starch
When you soak out your starch (yeah, I’m back to step one) take a straining or slotted spoon and dip out all the tiny little pieces of potato.
Cover the bowl and set it aside. After about an hour a lot of starch will be settled in the bottom of the bowl. Carefully pour off the water. You’ll see some of your starch leaving, too, but don’t worry. How much starch have you dumped away after boiling mashed potatoes? Most people don’t even think about it!
Let your starch dry further. The water will evaporate naturally, but you could spread it on a jelly sheet in your dehydrator if you wanted. Be sure it’s clean (like if you used it to dehydrate cinnamon dough ornaments) because it will absolutely absorb odors!
I just let it dry in the pan, breaking it up along the way. I did notice that I didn’t get near as much starch this round, and I figure it’s because my potatoes have started sprouting and are converting that starch into sugars to grow. My fries are stinking delicious, though, so who cares!
It acts just like corn starch. Even that weird, solid and liquid at the same time feeling. Honestly though, I don’t mess with this very often, I just like to know what I can do.
What’s a giant box of cornstarch cost? Like a buck? But in a pinch, you could use your potato starch to thicken your gravy, or in hard times have a skill that is wonderful. So, pointless knowledge for now, but someday….
Later this week I’m going to make some hash brown, tater tots and such and they’re prepped just a bit differently!
‘Til next time…tell me what you think in the comments below…and turn those potatoes into homemade french fries to eat and freeze for later!