Storing sweet potatoes

Great article in the most recent issue about vegetables and storage. My wife and I are going to adjust the content of the garden based on this. I do have a question about the longevity of sweet potatoes. In New Hampshire we are limited to growing the Beauregard variety. Last year, I stored the harvest in a room maintaining the temperature at 80 with moderate humidity. Then according to sources I read online, wrapped each potato in a newspaper and stored them in wooden baskets in our concrete cold cellar. The cellar never went below 32 degrees during the fall and winter. The humidity is fairly high and the cellar is well vented. The potatoes rotted within weeks. Did I do something wrong or should I just stick with growing and storing white potatoes in our cold New Hampshire environment?

Wilton, New Hampshire

Your sweet potatoes just got too cold, and chilling causes them to rot in storage. You shouldn’t even keep them in the refrigerator as that’s usually 40 degrees F and even that’s too cold. Sweet potatoes, once cured at 80 degrees and high humidity for a week or so, should be stored where it’s dark, airy, and between 55 and 60 degrees F. In most homes, that’s in a back closet, unheated bedroom, attic, or minimally-heated basement. Even Irish potatoes don’t like 32 degrees. I’ve had many of them develop black spots inside the skin after having been exposed to the low thirties for extended periods of time. To raise the temp in your cellar, you might consider adding some insulation board around your potato bin and also adding a heater on a thermostat so that when the temps in the cellar dip in the low thirties, it will come on to add just a little more heat. Your potatoes will store much better that way. But for the sweet potatoes, keep ’em warmer and they’ll store most of the winter. — Jackie

Stacking jars in the canner

I recently discovered that jars can be double-stacked in a canner, using a rack between layers. (Who knew?) But I’m wondering — doesn’t the weight of the jars in the top layer have the potential to affect the quality of the seal on the jars in the bottom layer?

Lynda King
Bolton, Massachusetts

Nope. I’ve double-decked for decades now and have not had any issues with the lower level having sealing failures. As you’ve said, it IS important to put a rack between layers. My first rack was a wire grill that had been on an old dart board! Then I graduated to a circular barbecue grill rack from the Dollar Store. Now that I’m using a new All American pressure canner, it came with two factory racks so I use these. Double-decking is a great way to get more bang for the buck when canning a batch: same time, same pressure, many more jars of food put up! — Jackie


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