Stinky Potatoes While Drying

soilent_greenOctober 7, 2013

I am experienced at dehydrating foods, but have never dried potatoes. The potatoes are home grown and are in excellent condition. I have a bumper harvest this year, way more than I can eat this winter so I decided to dehydrate a bunch of them in slice form. Out of curiosity I decided to dry batches of all of my varieties to see if there are any differences.

Everything has been going well and yesterday it was the turn for the Russet Burbanks. They have been drying down fine and look the same as the other varieties but instead of a wonderful potato smell in the house it smells something like a combination of stinky feet and doggy breath. Really unappetizing.

Anybody out there know why this happened? Is it perhaps typical of the Russet potato variety for some reason? Can it be avoided by doing or adding something during the process, or just skip doing Russets from now on? (I lean towards the latter barring an explanation of or solution to the problem.)

I did internet research on this issue and came up empty.

Thanks in advance for any help.
-Tom

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Did you pre-treat them with anything? Did you blanch them first? Sounds like you have some bacterial growth going on maybe. That would explain the smell.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 2:57PM
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soilent_green

Thanks for response.

I sliced the potatoes in a food processor and stored the slices in distilled water with lemon juice added to prevent browning until the slicing was finished. Par boiled slices in distilled water and when done I chilled them down in distilled ice water. Drained slices and placed them on dehydrator racks. Smell started within a couple of hours or so in the dehydrator.

I followed the exact same methods I used for the Yukons and Kennebecs, both turned out excellent. That is what has me stumped.

I did open a new bottle of lemon juice for this batch, don't know why that would matter. Maybe I should skip the lemon juice and just place the raw slices in ice water until par boiling.

Dehydrator racks and food processor parts were clean but I will make sure to sanitize everything before the next batch to eliminate those as potential sources of the problem. Distilled water jugs are refills so I will sanitize them also.

It is a bummer but I am going to toss the batch and move on to the Pontiacs.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 3:32PM
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myfamilysfarm

I'm super sensitive to potato smells, and I've found that some varieties just 'stink' to me. I know different varieties will smell differently, even straight out of the dirt. Different varieties grown in the same garden area.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 11:13AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Rather than toss then can't you just boil them, mash them and freeze them as mashed potatoes. The boiling will kill off any bacteria.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 11:15AM
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soilent_green

Well, I completed the task of sanitizing every bowl, plastic part, kitchen tool, blade, cutting board, and kitchen counter that will come in contact with my next batch of potatoes. I even sanitized the ice cube trays from where I get my ice for chilling the water as well as the refillable jugs I use for getting distilled water. Was worth all the effort, it feels good to bring the kitchen up a notch regarding cleanliness after a long, busy harvest season.

I decided that I really need to do another batch of Russets to replicate the situation in order to see whether I solved the problem or not. It will be a smaller test batch, though, not ten pounds of potatoes this time.

Of course it is a shame to throw away 10 original pounds of dehydrated potatoes, but I do not to eat sub-par food. I have approximately three hundred pounds of harvested potatoes in storage in the root cellar, I can afford the small loss. :-)

I will report how the next batch of Russets goes.

-Tom

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 11:49AM
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soilent_green

Russet potato slices have been in the dehydrator for around five hours now, everything going fine. There is a pleasant potatoey aroma in the house even though I only have a half-batch working.

My Suspicion: Dehydrator trays had not been kept properly cleaned and sanitized.

Lesson: Keep those kitchens and dehydrators clean, folks.

Thanks for the help Dave, it is much appreciated.

-Tom

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 7:28PM
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soilent_green

BTW I agree that different potato varieties have different versions of what I consider to be that "earthy" smell, but I find none offensive. To me nothing beats the earthy smell of healthy soil full of all those beneficial microorganisms munching on the organic compost that has been applied. I love putting a handful of that soil up to my nose and doing a good deep inhale. That smell is the smell of life.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 7:55PM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Thanks for the update on your cleaning and good results. I've been using my food dryer a lot and, because of your posts, realize it needs to be cleaned more often. It sure is tempting to take one batch off and load up another, though, especially when it is the same product and there is lots to dry.

Looking back, I wonder what I was thinking (or not thinking), yet at the time I didn't feel I was being unsafe. I'll be evaluating and modifying as I go through other kitchen tasks, too. No more sub par food for our family either :)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 11:25AM
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soilent_green

"...at the time I didn't feel I was being unsafe." - Yes, it is so easy to become complacent especially if you have never had any problems, like me. Everything seems to be working right so you just keep on doing what you are doing, then a problem occurs. In a way it feels kind of good that I did not know I was experiencing a bacterial issue because such a thing had never happened in my kitchen before, but now I think there has been some luck involved as to why not. The experience was a good wake-up call. My simple goal is for a problem like this to never happen again in my kitchen and it is really not that hard to avoid. It just takes discipline and attention to detail and perhaps erring on the side of caution.

I have dehydrated 8 batches of potatoes (approximately 40 pounds) since the issue was identified and addressed, and have not had any problems. The house has been smelling wonderfully. :-)

Since my mind has been focused on this issue, I realized that I was quite possibly cross-contaminating during processing by lack of attention to detail, such as using the same towel during processing. I would wipe my wet hands on a towel while handling the raw uncleaned produce and use the same towel all the way through the process, including wiping my hands on it before handling the finished, par boiled slices and placing them in the trays. Was a bad (potentially dangerous) habit on my part, and I will never do such a thing again. I now use different colored towels as a way of keeping track - red, orange, yellow for caution (meaning possible contamination) and blue, green, white for safe (meaning when handling finished food whose next step will be consumption). Seems to work pretty good.

I have also instituted a new standing rule for my kitchen: I purchased extra HDPE cutting boards. Whenever a cutting board comes into contact with any kind of raw meat, it will be rinsed and immediately be removed from the kitchen until it is properly sanitized. Period. I am no longer taking any chances with the negative possibilities of meat products.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 8:56PM
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