Wanna know why I didn’t call this German Potato Salad? I’ve been to Germany, and I didn’t have any potato salad there. Although, I do know that they have it there–it’s vinegar-based and doesn’t have any mayonnaise in it, unless you’re in Berlin. I was in Frankfurt, which is in the southern part of the country and I guess they do things differently there.
Sometimes this potato salad made appearances at Sunday dinners. About once a month, the entire family would gather at my grandparents for lunch. They always cooked every bit of it, and they went to church and we ate right after. It boggles my mind now as to how they were able to pull it off and make it look effortless. Everyone had their designated seats at the table and I often ended up in the center between my mother and grandmother. We ate on the good china – it had holly on it and was gold rimmed and it had to be washed by hand and put back in the velvet-lined box and hidden away in the closet until next time.
My grandfather developed this recipe as a cook in the navy during World War II – his history is lost to me, but salvaged by my aunt and a tape recorder. He died when I was 22 and still in the college mindset of “do what I want when I want.” Oh, how I wish I could have known him now as an adult with a proper head on my shoulders. My grandmother hand wrote the recipe in her very flour-covered and dirty spiral recipe book. It lives in a ziploc bag in her flour drawer. Why? I’m not really sure.
Let’s talk potatoes. They’re a member of the nightshade family. See those pretty “sweet potato vine” plants at the nursery? Same family. They all contain a poisonous substance called solanine, in small quantities, more so in the leaves. If you have potatoes that have sprouted eyes or have green spots on them, they have photosynthesized and contain a bit more solenoid than is safe–you should discard. High heat destroys the compound, so you could deep fry them, but it’s easier to just toss. When you talk potatoes, you need to know which ones are right for the dish you want to make
- When choosing potatoes, pick specimens that are heavy for their size, without bruising, dark spots, or green spots. If they appear shriveled or feel spongy, they’re old.
- High-starch or “starchy” potatoes like Russet and Idaho are good for roasting, french fries, and mashing. They have less water because the starch granules take up all the room, so they’re good to soak up as much drink as you can give them, which is why we add milk to mashed potatoes. When you boil them, they soak up lots and lots of water and fall apart, so they’re no good for our potato salad. But, they are useful if you want to use a potato to thicken up soup. If you want fluffy mashed potatoes, choose a Russet and steam it, as it turns mealy when boiled.
- Medium-starch potatoes like Yukon Gold or various purple varieties have some of the qualities of the high-starch potatoes, but hold their shape. Yukon Golds make great mashed potatoes.
- Low-starch or “waxy” potatoes like Red Bliss or freshy dug “new” potatoes have low starch content and lots of moisture, so they hold their shape well when boiled. If you try and mash these, you’ll turn them to glue long before they get fluffy. These are good for our potato salad.
- In general, 1lb of potatoes equals 4 cups diced or just shy of 2 cups mashed.
My grandfather didn’t use measurements, he eyeballed everything. I use measurements, so I have approximated what I remember the tastes to be. As always, experimenting will help you find what your family likes.
First, we start with “new” red bliss potatoes. I had no problem washing all that dirt right down the drain. I’m sure the plumber will come over shortly. Then, I boiled them in salted water for about 10 minutes.
Drain them in a colander and run under cold water. I used a tea towel to wipe off the peels – they came right off. I had to stop and wring out the towel to get rid of the peel a time or two, but compared to peeling the potatoes with a hand peeler, it was easy.
Chop up the potatoes into hunks – whatever size your family can fit into their hungry, gaping maw of a mouth.
Mix together the remainder of the ingredients – the veggie bits, celery seed, a hefty cup of salad dressing and a good 4-5 tablespoons of mustard. Please, I beg of you, don’t use mayonnaise. You must use the “other” kind that has a synonym of the word spank in it. You’ll notice the boiled egg is missing. I was to this point and realized “Oh crap, I forgot to boil an egg.” With dinner guests coming in 10 minutes, I didn’t have time, so we omitted it and it was just as good.
Stir the quivering yellow mass and toss with the potatoes. Refrigerate until company comes. You must serve cold – we don’t want room temperature mayo products–no wee beasties allowed.
by Jason Osborne
1 lb new potatoes (red bliss)
1 cup salad dressing/sandwich spread
4 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tsp celery seed
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small jar pimiento
1 large hard boiled egg, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet dill pickle relish
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
Boil potatoes in highly salted water for 10 minutes or until a knife pierces easily through the potato (knife tender). Drain and flush with cold water until cool enough to handle. Use a towel to wipe the skin from each potato and then chop. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pout over potatoes. Toss to coat. Refrigerate until serving time and serve cold.