Grit Blogs > The Open Book

Potato Salad, Anyone?

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor

Tags: potato, potato salad, mustard, pickles, eggs,

When asked about her potato salad recipe, Mom said, “As many eggs as potatoes,” and she went on to explain the rest of her recipe: celery, onion, perhaps celery seed (something Nanie, my grandmother, used most of the time), mustard, real mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

“I prefer chunks of potatoes,” Mom says, “kind of on the large side, and not overcooked.” She doesn’t like too much mayo, adds everything to taste, and uses mustard for its flavor.

Boiled eggs add a little extra to any salad.When I asked Aunt Jean for her potato salad recipe, she said, “An egg for every potato,” and Mom and I laughed, then explained. Sisters!

Aunt Jean uses mayonnaise, mustard, a little onion, sometimes onion powder or celery seed, and she sometimes adds a little pickle juice in the mayo, and salt and pepper to taste. She says she always chills it a while before serving.

Next to be on the receiving end of my potato salad recipe questions was Aunt Mary Ethel. She prefers using new potatoes, peeled and chopped, a couple of boiled eggs, a tablespoon or so of dill relish, a half-and-half combination of real mayonnaise and sour cream, a good squirt of mustard, a half tablespoon of celery seed, and salt and pepper to taste. She says when she has fresh onion, cucumbers, celery or tomato, a bit of that will find its way into the salad, but not often. She likes a full bite of potato, so she doesn’t chop them much.

“There’s a different flavor with new potatoes,” Mary Ethel says. “They’re firmer and don’t need as much dressing.”

She doesn’t mind sweet relish in someone else’s potato salad, but she doesn’t use it.

Off to talk with Aunt Mary Kaye. One note before I go on, Mary Kaye makes the best pickles, particularly hot pickles. They’re terrific on a turkey sandwich!

 Mary Kaye’s recipe for potato salad goes like this: leftover potatoes, cool, and mushed with a potato masher. Add hardboiled eggs, onion, sweet pickles, dill pickles, hot pickles (I love this recipe!), some pickle juice added to the Miracle Whip (light), mustard, a “strinkle” of sugar to cut the tangy mustard, and salt and pepper.

My sister Katherine was next on my list. She leaves the skins on her boiled potatoes, adds hardboiled eggs, onion, dill pickles (yes!), as much mayonnaise as needed, a squirt of yellow mustard, maybe a little pickle juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Katherine likes her potatoes in larger pieces, and her salad with lots of eggs, dill pickles and onion.

Two e-mails later, and I am now the proud possessor of recipes from my sisters Tricia and Mary.My potato salad - it needs more pickles!

“Be happy to share my recipe except I don’t use one,” Tricia writes. “My typical potato salad is made with cooked red potatoes (sometimes new), hardboiled eggs and green onion. Use half mayonnaise and half plain low-fat yogurt with mustard, Mrs. Dash, salt and pepper. I try to cut the potatoes into bite-size piece before cooking them, and I try not to overcook the potatoes, but usually that’s just a dream. Nothing fancy, but it usually tastes pretty good. A little different because of the yogurt.”

Mary says she’s the only one in her family to eat potato salad. “I like it simple – boiled potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Then I dress up the leftovers with diced ham, and maybe a bit of grated cheese.”

She, like others in my family, doesn’t buy potato salad in stores. Mary says it’s always way too sweet. Mom says another of her sisters, Anna Mae, used to bring store-bought potato salad home, only to doctor it to suit her taste.

My try (in photograph) this weekend came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Red-skinned potatoes, hardboiled eggs, a few dill pickles (it really needs more), mayonnaise, a dash of pickle juice, and a large squirt of spicy mustard. I cooked the potatoes in the microwave, for about 15 minutes (in increments of 5 minutes), and they’re not too mushy this time around. I used four fairly good sized potatoes, and five hardboiled eggs – didn’t want to end the family tradition! I also didn’t go overboard on the mayo, something I struggle with when making these types of salads.

Until I asked about family recipes, I’d never thought to cut the mayo with pickle juice, sour cream or yogurt. Since I tried the pickle juice this time, with good results, I’ll try sour cream or yogurt the next time around. It’s time to expand my horizons!