How to: Pressure Canning Potatoes

Home Canned Potatoes

This post is a response to some questions I had from Instagram followers on how I can my potatoes. Why do I can potatoes?  Well, we didn’t have a garden this year and I don’t have a root cellar to store them in so that they’ll last through the winter.  We do eat a fair amount of potatoes but when I buy them in bulk there’s too many for us to consume before they start going bad or trying to sprout.  So canning them is my solution for keeping them on hand.  I buy potatoes year round when they go on sale and buy them in large quantities.  I keep a stash available for us to use in our everyday cooking and what I think we won’t be able to eat before they spoil will get canned.

Potatoes can be canned in chunks like in the photo above or whole if you’re using baby new potatoes like the jars below.  I love the look of the baby new potatoes on my shelves.  Don’t they look great?

Home canned new potatoes

So today I’m going to show you how I can and I hope you’ll give it a try.  These canned potatoes can be thrown in to soups and stews, are great for quick mashed potatoes, creamed potatoes, curry dishes, and just about any recipe that calls for potatoes.

Since potatoes are a low acid food, you must use a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker) to preserve potatoes.  Potatoes cannot be preserved using the water bath method.  I’m using a Presto Canner with a weighted gauge that I bought at Wal-Mart for about $69.  It will hold 7 quart jars or 8-9 pint jars at a time.  Please read the directions for the pressure canner you purchase since each brand operates diferrently and follow the directions for preparing your canner for it’s first use.  You will also need to know your elevation to calculate the proper processing times.  I process at 10 pounds for where I live.  Below is a guideline you can use.

pressure canning table

First, you’ll need to prepare your potatoes. If using large potatoes scrub, peel, remove any bad spots and cut them into approximately 1″ chunks. You don’t want a small dice on these because they will be pressure canned for 40 minutes and small diced pieces will fall apart.  Place the potatoes into a large pot of water and let them soak for a bit.  You want to try to remove as much of the starch as you can from the potatoes so you don’t end up with a lot of starch build up in your jars.  The starch won’t hurt you but the jars look better without it.

You may need to change the water several times while soaking.  Different types of potatoes have different levels of starch.  Potatoes with thicker skins like Russets have a lot of starch in them.  Thin skinned potatoes like the new potatoes have less starch.

While your potatoes are soaking, prepare your canning equipment.  You’ll need to wash your jars in hot soapy water (no need to sterilize at this point since pressure canning them will kill bacteria).  I wash my jars and partially fill them with hot tap water and then place them in my pressure canner which also has about 2″ of water in the bottom.  The canner then gets heated up on my stove top to warm up the jars.  Just a light simmer is all they need and the lid is loosely placed on to retain the heat.  Add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the canner.  This will help to keep your jars clean if you have hard water.  It’s not necessary but it keeps cloudy scum from forming on the outside of your jars.

Canning jars simmering in pressure canner

While the jars are heating up, you’ll need to now heat up the potatoes.  Change the water the potatoes have been soaking in and gently heat the potatoes up to a light simmer.  We don’t want to cook them through but we do need to heat them up to place them in the jars.  Heating up the potatoes will also help release more of the potato starches.

heating up potatoes for canning

While the potatoes are heating up, prepare your lids by simmering them in hot water to help soften the gasket for sealing.  You could also just  boil some water in a kettle and remove it from the stove top just before it reaches a full rolling boil and pour that over your lids in a bowl.  Add a little vinegar to the water also.

canning lids simmering

You will also need another pot (yes, another pot) of just plain water heated up.  This will be the water that you’ll pour into the jars.  You don’t want to use the water that the potatoes are heated up in because you don’t want the starch in that water.  Your setup should look like the picture below.  I have my pot of simmering potatoes (see the starch in the water?), the canner with the simmering jars, and the pot of fresh water.  On the counter to the left side is my small saucepan with the lids.

three pots for canning potatoes

Below are a few more tools you’ll need to help you with canning.  I recommend buying the Ball Canning Kit since it includes everything you’ll need:  the funnel, magnetic lid lifter, jar lifter, and de-bubbling wand (not pictured below since I’m using a chop stick for de-bubbling). You’ll also need a large scoop for the water, paper towels to wipe the jar rims, and a towel or pot holder for your hot jar to sit on.  My lids are sitting off to the left on a potholder.

canning tools

Now that everything is heated up and ready, we are ready to start filling the jars.  Using the jar lifter, remove one jar from the canner, set it on your potholder or towel (you don’t want to place the hot jar directly on a cold surface which can cause it to crack), and pour in a scoop of the heated plain water and then start adding your potatoes (I used a large slotted spoon in that pot).  I find that adding a little water to the bottom of the jar helps the potatoes settle a little bit easier.  You can also add a little canning salt if you prefer (1 tsp. per quart jar) but it’s not necessary.  I’m canning these potatoes without the salt.  It’s purely for taste and does not aid in actually preserving the potatoes.

adding potatoes to jars

Fill the jar with potatoes and then add water leaving 1″ head space (that’s the bottom ring on the jar).  Using your debubble wand or chopstick (do not use metal to debubble your jars since that can scratch and weaken them) to help release bubbles that are trapped between the potato pieces.  This will also help the potatoes settle into the jars.  You may need to add more water or more potato pieces after debubbling.

debubble the jar after filling

With a clean paper towel, wipe the top rim of the jar off, and then place your lid and ring on.  The ring only needs to be finger tight so don’t go all He-man  with that ring and get it stuck on tight.  Air needs to be able to escape from the jar while in the canner so turn just until you have a resistance.

lid and ring on canning jar

The finished jar now goes into the canner to stay warm and you repeat the process with the remaining jars until they’re all done.

potatoes ready for pressurizing

The lid will now go on WITHOUT the weight on it.  Turn your heat on high and let the canner come up to temperature.  You can see my lid below and there is a vent port in the front.  On my canner, once this front vent port pops up and a steady column of steam is coming from the center column where the weighted gauge should be, I set the timer for 10 minutes and let the canner vent steam.  This allows for any air pockets in the canner to be removed.

pressurizing the canner

After the 10 minutes are up, the weight goes on the center column and then you’ll wait for about 3-5 minutes for the canner to pressurize.

adding the weighted gauge

Once the weight gauge starts rocking, turn your heat down low enough to just maintain a gentle rocking motion and start your timer for 40 minutes (this is for processing quart jars, pints are processed at 35 minutes).  We don’t want it to go all crazy and jiggle about madly.  If it’s jiggling about madly, you’re heat is too high.  This will take some practice for you to figure out what that setting may be.  For my stove, I turn it down to halfway between the 1-2 setting which is low.

After 40 minutes has elapsed, turn off the heat and remove the canner from the heat.  DO NOT remove the weighted gauge.  Let the canner depressurize naturally.  This will take about 30 minutes.  It is not safe to remove the weighted gauge or the lid at this point.  Once the front vent port has collapsed back down into the lid, let the canner sit for another 5 minutes before opening.  Carefully open the lid and let the steam escape from the back.  Do not open the lid so that it is facing you.  There is still very hot steam trapped in there and you will get burned!  Let the lid sit loosely on the canner for another 10 minutes before removing completely and then use your jar lifter and place the very very hot jars on a towel lined counter top.  Do not place the hot jars directly on a cold surface or they may burst. Leave the jars alone for the next 24 hours and don’t mess with them.  They need to cool down at this point and start sealing.  You should hear the jar lids start to pop a few minutes after the jars have been removed.  The next morning, check for seals by pressing the middle of the lid down.  If it’s firm and doesn’t move then the jar sealed properly.  If it moves up and down then the jar did not seal and you will need to place these jars in the fridge and use them up soon.

jars just removed from the canner

Above are the finished jars that just came out of the canner.  Notice that the color of the potatoes has changed a little bit.

To store, remove the rings and wash your jars to remove any residue.  Rings that are left on can become rusty and will make it hard to open the jars.

If you’re canning the whole new potatoes, just scrub those real well and remove any bad spots.  No need to soak these since we’re leaving the skin on and the starch will stay inside the potatoes.  I don’t heat them up either when I can them whole which is another reason I like canning new potatoes.  Just pack them in the jars using the same method for potato chunks and follow the rest of the tutorial.

And that’s it!  Pressure canning is easy so don’t be scared and give it a try.

If you have any questions or are confused by my instructions, please feel free to leave a comment.

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