For potato fanatics, there is nothing as exciting as the first new potatoes of the season, and in Ontario, that is still a few months away, with the first locally grown spuds usually available to us in late June or July. Until then, we have access to spuds grown in warmer climes, and many of us are content to use up last year’s batch. Storing these spuds properly is one of the keys to ensuring that your spuds are tasty all winter.
Stored properly in a cool, dark cellar at a temperature between 7-10 degrees C they will last for months. You also want to store them in a relatively humid environment; potatoes are 80% water, so when they are stored in very dry or warm conditions they will shrink and sprout as the water in them evaporates.
Did you know that the average Ontarian consumes 140 pounds of potatoes a year? No wonder that when we refer to a type of common man, we call him a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy; he’s half potato! Winter spuds don’t have to be fancy, they just have to be there. But whereas a new potato is possibly best enjoyed boiled in its jacket, with just little fresh butter, herbs and salt and pepper, the winter spuds from your cellar are probably best doctored up a bit, seasoned and mashed with milk and butter, baked into rustic and homey scalloped potatoes or a more refined gratin , served baked in their skins with sour cream and other trimmings or given a hasselback makeover.
Whether to leave the skins on or peel them is largely a matter of choice, but the skins of the potato contain much of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals. and they also add colour, visual appeal and texture to potato dishes, and for many, the chewy, moist skin of a perfectly baked potato is the best part. One of the great disappointments in the casual dining world is coming across a poorly baked potato, one that is mushy, or the skin is watery and loose, or tough and dry. Whenever we bake potatoes at home we use this tried and true technique described by Linda from What’s Cooking America. It is idiot-proof, really, and yields perfect and consistent results every time. Using a meat thermometer is a stroke of genius, and takes the guesswork out of the equation; when the internal temperature reaches 210 F your spud is baked. It’s up to you to decide how you want to doctor it up!