Learning to Cook with Dehydrated Foods
The white potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum L. One medium-size potato has just 110 calories and is fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free. Whether the skin is yellow, blue, purple or red, potato nutrition is good for you! Potatoes are the number one vegetable crop in the United States and the fourth most consumed crop in the world, behind rice, wheat and corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- One medium potato with skin provides 620 milligrams or 18% of the recommended daily value (DV) per serving. Potatoes rank highest for potassium content among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and fruits.
- Vitamin C. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (45% of the DV), which is more vitamin C than one medium tomato (40% DV) or sweet potato (30% DV).
- One medium potato with the skin contributes 2 grams of fiber or 8% of the daily value per serving.
- Vitamin B6. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6 with one medium potato providing 10% of the recommended daily value.
- One medium potato provides 6% of the recommended daily value of iron.
- Potatoes are stuffed with phytonutrients, which are organic components of plants that are thought to promote health, according to the USDA. Phytonutrients in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids and caffeic acid.
- They are also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid.
However, they are also starchy carbohydrates with little protein. According to Harvard, the carbohydrates in potatoes are the kind that the body digests rapidly and have a high glycemic load. That is, they cause blood sugar and insulin to surge and then dip. The rapid rise in blood sugar can also lead to increased insulin production, so if you are diabetic, potatoes should take the place of a grain on the plate. They are high in simple carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain, very much like white bread. Use it as a carbohydrate rather than as your only vegetable.
Preparation of Potatoes for Dehydration
So how do you keep all those nutritional goodies when dehydrating? The way you prepare your potatoes is key. Baking a potato is the best way to prepare it, as baking, or microwaving a potato causes the lowest amount of nutrients to be lost. The next-healthiest way to cook a potato is through steaming, which causes less nutrient loss than boiling.
When cooking a peeled potato by boiling, it results in significant nutrient loss. The water-soluble nutrients leach out into the water. You can steam blanch the prepared pieces for 6-8 minutes or water blanch them for 5-6 minutes, but if you are preparing your potatoes for dehydration by boiling, the best way is to leave the skins on, refrigerate overnight after cooking, and then cut your potatoes the way you are going to process them (diced, sliced, or mashed for flour).
In a potato, those water-soluble nutrients include B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, potassium and calcium. As much as 80 percent of a potato’s vitamin C may go down the drain if you boil the vegetable. The same thing can happen with peeled potatoes that are left to soak, a method used to stop darkening. If you use the water from the potato boil as stock you’ll still get some of the nutrients.
However you cook a potato, try to eat the skin. Ounce for ounce, the skin contains more nutrients — including the majority of the vegetable’s fiber. Just make sure you thoroughly scrub the skin.
What Varieties Dehydrate Best?
Basically, potatoes fall into three categories: starchy, waxy, and those in-between (all-purpose). You can dehydrate ANY potato, but white potatoes for dehydration should be the “waxy” or “boiling” kind. Different types of potatoes have different amounts and types of starches and they react to heating differently. (Tip: A starchy potato will excrete a milky film onto the knife when sliced.) You want a potato that keeps its shape and texture well and is not mealy. Most red-skin potatoes are of lower starch than baking potatoes and work well for dehydrating. Many white round potatoes with thin skins also fall into this category with red-skin potatoes.
I find most baking potatoes like Russets are not good for dehydrating for slices and dices, but do work for powdering into flours (they have a high starch content). Yukon Gold may not be the best potatoes for dehydration. While they seem good for boiling, they do tend to fall apart when overcooked, so do not cook them until they do if you are using them. From what I have read, there is a wide variety in the types and amounts of starches in blue potatoes, so not all blues are the same, just like not all white potatoes are the same in these characteristics.
For a helpful guide to potatoes, check out “Wisconsin Potato Varieties” at The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association website.
If you boil potatoes with the skins on, then put them in the refrigerator overnight, it firms up the potato and makes it easier to peel, cut and shred. Make sure to cook your potatoes before dehydrating or they will turn black in the dehydrator. Do not over-cook your potatoes or they will fall apart.
I have not had fabulous luck with making mashed potatoes that did not taste grainy to me, but the trick here is to boil them and use the potato water to mash. Do NOT add any dairy or butter. You just want the potato water to mash for best results I have found that getting the lumps out is difficult so I have included a recipe for using potato dices for mashed potatoes.
How-to: Dehydrating Potatoes
Rehydration Ratios & Times
The water content of fresh potatoes is 80% before dehydration. Rehydration time is quickened by the following factors: soft water, boiling water before covering, smaller cut pieces. Add salt or sugar after rehydrating because they can slow the process. Very simple cooking methods will restore volume and texture to dehydrated potatoes. Although they may appear shriveled in the package, the vegetable pieces return to their original shape after they have been rehydrated.
However, you can rehydrate potatoes and use them as you would fresh by one of two methods: 1) by first soaking in hot water and then adding to dishes, or 2) by adding directly to dishes as they cook (usually liquid based such as soups or stews). See Rehydrating Tips.
To rehydrate potatoes for use in recipes that are not long-cooking, use the following procedure:
- Measure the amount of potatoes into a large bowl and pour boiling water over them just until covered.
- Put a plate over the bowl and let them sit for about 1-2* hours until they are fully plump. Check occasionally to see if more boiling water is needed.
*Note: Vegetable weights will vary from crop to crop due to density, and other growing factors. These yields are approximate based on extensive actual kitchen testing. Further, results may vary depending on how you store your product, climate you live in (because of humidity), how long you let it re-hydrate, size/shape of product, etc.
Tips for Rehydration
- You might notice your potatoes were quite yellow in the jars but once rehydrated, they’re back to being nice and white.
- The soaking liquid contains nutrients and flavor, so save it to use in cooking.
- I must make an important point here: if you’re rehydrating food in hot water, please make sure to bring it back to a boil while you’re preparing your recipe; you don’t want to have food sitting around in hot/warm water without boiling it again – be safe – don’t let any airborne germs get a chance to fester in it prior to eating.
- *It takes about an hour for small veggies to plump back up in the water; the larger veggies take longer, about two hours.
- You may want to cook your rehydrated veggies a little longer than usual. This helps make the vegetables taste like whole vegetables again.
- Water Quality Counts. Remember, the quality of the water you use while rehydrating food IS important, as the water is being absorbed by the foods that you are going to eat re-hydrated again – so don’t skimp here by using nasty water. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it. Make sure it’s good, clean, drinking water.
- If you’re making a soup where the vegetables aren’t sautéed in olive oil at the start of the recipe, then go ahead and just add them to the water (or soup stock or soup base according to the recipe) in their dehydrated form. For the most part, they’ll plump right up in the water/stock base if you let them cook long enough. Just be sure to add more liquid to compensate for the amounts soaked up by your dehydrated vegetables.
- If your food is not a good texture, it has not rehydrated long enough. If you are not happy with the texture of your dehydrated food, just let it sit longer in water. You will find it will be what you expected.
- Sometimes, not all vegetables will have suitable texture or flavor simply from soaking them. For peak flavor, simmer the rehydrated vegetable pieces and add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Recipes using Dehydrated Potatoes
Fried Potatoes (Home Fries)
Makes 4 servings
1 cup dried potato slices
1/2 cup dried onion slices
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil
Seasonings of choice (seasoned salt, black pepper, jalapeño powder, etc.)
- Measure potato slices and onion into a deep bowl. Pour boiling water over the vegetables and cover to seal in the heat until rehydrated (20 minutes-1 hour). Drain off any excess water.
- Heat butter or oil in a skillet and add the vegetables. Cook until lightly browned.
- Once the potatoes are lightly browned, add in your seasonings and continue to cook to preferred brownness.
- Use shredded potatoes instead of slices to make Hash Brown Potatoes.
- Add 1/4 cup dried green peppers to the vegetable mix when rehydrating with 1-3/4 cups boiling water. Or try dried jalapeño for a spicier blend.
- Use 1 cup potato dices, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and 1/4 cup green peppers to make Potatoes O’Brien.
Scalloped Potatoes Pantry Packs
Makes 4 Servings
2 cups dried potato slices
1/4 cup dried, chopped onion pieces
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons flour or arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or mixed peppercorns, ground)
- You will need 2 containers for the pantry packet.
- In a large container or quart Mason jar, combine the potato slices and onion.
- In a quart-sized Ziploc bag, add the remaining dry ingredients. Push out all the air to seal closed. Fold this bag into the larger container.
- Store in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard.
To prepare scalloped potatoes:
1 pantry packet of scalloped potato mixture
3 cups boiling water
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese (or combination)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Grease the interior surfaces of an 8-cup (2 liter) casserole baking dish liberally with oil or butter. Distribute dehydrated potato slices and onion evenly in the casserole dish. Layer butter pieces over the potatoes and onions.
- In a bowl, combine contents of small Ziploc bag and boiling water. Whisk to combine. Pour over potato mixture.
- Cover the casserole dish in a sheet of aluminum foil. Crimp the aluminum foil around the rim of the dish to create a moisture-tight seal.
- Slide the covered dish into oven for 30-minutes. Lift the foil carefully to vent steam away from your face and hands. Add cheese(s) over the top and reseal with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes longer.
- Remove the aluminum foil once the potatoes are rehydrated and soft. Bake the potatoes without the foil for another 10 minutes at 375°F (190°C) to brown the top layer if you wish.
- Use equal parts milk and water (1-1/2 cup each) for a richer sauce.
- Add savory seasonings/herbs to increase the flavor complexity of the dish.
- Add 1 cup of diced, cooked chicken and 1/2 cup frozen peas to the dish before layering in the potatoes and onion for a main meal dish.
- Use shredded cheese(s) (Monterrey Jack, Swiss, provolone,longhorn, etc.) of your choice.
Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Makes 4 servings
1 cup dried potato cubes
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup milk (approximately)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- In a saucepan, combine potatoes and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover with the lid slightly ajar, and boil gently for 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
- Mash potatoes with a potato masher until smooth with butter chunks.
- Continue to mash, adding in the milk gradually to make a soft consistency.
- Mash in cheese until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
- Replace milk with an equal amount of sour cream.
- Replace cheddar cheese with an equal amount of cream cheese.
- Add in herbs like parsley, rosemary, and/or lemon pepper to give it a special flavor. Throw these in the pot when boiling the potatoes to rehydrate them too. You don’t need much; 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon should be plenty depending on the strength of the herb.
- Add 1 tablespoon of your favorite sauce (like BBQ sauce) for a nice kick.
- Instead of water, try broth to richly flavor the potato dices.
More on Using Dehydrated Foods: Dehydrating with a Purpose—What To Do with All That Food!
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