Potatoes and Onions: Keep them fresh—or make latkes

In the fourth installment of our newsletter series on delicious ways to use foods and keep them fresh longer, StopWaste shows us how to cook with and store potatoes and onions. You’ll also find holiday meal tips and a recipe from StopWaste in our Winter Holidays issue.

Back in the day, many households had root cellars or underground rooms for storage of staple foods like apples, nuts, carrots, beets, cabbages, onions, and potatoes. These spaces offered year-round conditions perfect for keeping foods fresh: fairly consistent cool temperatures and steady humidity. These days, we rely on modern refrigerators to store much of our produce, but the fridge is too cold for potatoes and onions, causing them to turn limp and weirdly sweet as their starch converts to sugar.

To keep potatoes and onions fresh longer, place them inside paper or mesh bags and stash in a dark, dry, and fairly cool (but not cold) place like a low kitchen cabinet or your basement. However, make sure the bags of potatoes and onions are stored a distance from each other, since each releases moisture and gases that will cause the other to spoil faster.

What if your spuds already show signs of sprouting and are starting to shrivel? How about making a batch of latkes! These delicious potato onion fritters are the perfect comfort food for a cold, gray winter day. Here is a recipe from StopWaste staff person Meghan Starkey. Her husband says her latkes are better than his Jewish mom’s—and that’s saying something!

Meghan’s Latkes

5–7 potatoes like Yukon Gold, skins on
½ onion, chopped
2 eggs
¼–½ cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper
Frying oil like sunflower 

Shred potatoes with a medium grater. Salt moderately and set to drain in a colander over a large bowl for 30 minutes. Then squeeze out excess liquid and transfer to a large bowl.

Add chopped onions, beaten eggs, and matzo meal. Mix thoroughly. Add an additional beaten egg and/or more matzo meal as needed to coat the potatoes. Mixture shouldn’t be goopy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat ½ inch of oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Test oil temperature by dropping individual potato shreds into the oil. Once a shred starts to bubble, shape latkes using a large cooking spoon. Squeeze slightly to remove excess moisture.

Fry on first side until bottom turns medium brown. Flip and brown the other side. Once both sides are brown, remove from skillet and drain on paper grocery bags overlaid with paper towels. You may need to add more oil as you fry the latkes, and make sure to let it heat to the sizzling point before you resume. Once drained, latkes can be transferred to a plate in a 250° oven to keep them warm until serving.

Latkes are especially delicious served with sour cream, yogurt, or applesauce.

For more tips and easy-to-follow recipes that reduce food waste and make the most of food you already have, visit StopFoodWaste.org, a project by Alameda County public agency StopWaste. 

Top photo: Carole Topalian; Bottom photo courtesy of StopWaste.

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