When it gets close to Memorial Day, I can almost hear:
- the pots bubbling,
- glass baking dishes clinking,
- mixers whirring,
- grill scrubbing,
- patios, carports and docks getting hosed off,
- lawn mowers roaring,
- plastic containers burping and
- can openers humming as-
Homes and church grounds are readied for Decoration Day as Memorial Day is known in the South. Of course, it is a day observed as the Official Kickoff of Summer with picnics and family gatherings too. Weeks in advance, folks have been getting their menus ready – meats, breads, sides, desserts and salads- Coleslaw and Potato Salad are a given. I tend to think of eating Potato Salad in warm weather. Chilled, it’s a cooling side dish. I do not believe I have ever attended a bonafide Memorial Day Picnic, Dinner on the Grounds, Church Picnic, Bereavement Buffet, Family Reunion, Barbeque or Summer Milestone occasion that at least one big bowl of Potato Salad was not on the menu, often several variations. I can hear it now…
‘Well, you know Weezie Walters always brings her Potato Salad, it’s the best- so mark that off the list’…
There’s always one or more that can be counted on to make it. Potato Salad may not always be lauded or applauded, it might be treated like a stepchild of Southern Food but we always want it. Some folks make it plain, some folks make it fancy by adding pimento, pickle relish, olives or other ingredients to make Potato Salad their own special version. All classic Potato Salads have a mayonnaise and mustard base which is mixed in a bowl before tossing gently, since warm potatoes more readily absorb the flavors. Family recipes abound. Potato Salad can be made a few days ahead, it could feed the masses. In my family, we went for Plain Potato Salad with few ingredients. My grandmother added one mystery ingredient that was so subtle, most couldn’t find or identify it, but then I’m getting ahead of myself… I ran across a recipe for a Church Homecoming- which called for:
- 10 pounds of potatoes,
- one dozen eggs,
- 5 cups of mayonnaise and
- 4 cups of pickle relish and at least 15 more ingredients!
The cook notes- ‘Makes 25 servings. This recipe can be doubled or tripled’ Really? Oh my goodness! That’s a lot of Potato Salad!!
I have to admit when I make Potato Salad at home, I generally make more than we will eat at one meal- it is so good with Baked Black Pepper Ham or Pit Barbeque. A Sunday Dinner of Home Fried Chicken, fresh Pole Beans and Southern Potato Salad is amazing. For a cool summer lunch, Potato Salad is wonderful all by itself, add fresh tomato slices, a dose of black pepper and Saltine Crackers. Delicious! Even Hot Dog Suppers or Grilled Hamburger Gatherings seem to cry out for Coleslaw, Baked Beans and Potato Salad. Family recipes for Potato Salad recipes are not always written down, I know that I never look at our recipe when I make it! This time, because I wanted to share the recipe with y’all, I kept track! Please feel free to adjust it and make Potato Salad your own- varied ingredients make it unique and delicious! But hey, if you’re like me, you may like it plain.
Camellia’s Potato Salad
In a large pot of salted water, place 5-6 medium all purpose white potatoes (scrubbed and washed) with 3 large eggs, bring water to a rolling boil. Wait 3-4 minutes before removing eggs. Allow eggs to cool. Reduce the heat, allow the potatoes to continue bubbling undercover until fork tender but not mushy. Ten minutes longer is generally sufficient. We don’t want mashed Potato Salad here!
In a large bowl, combine:
- 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise, (homemade if possible, or a commercial mayonnaise that includes lemon juice in the list of ingredients)
- 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
- 5-6 drops of hot sauce.
- Here is that mystery ingredient- On the fine side of a box grater, grate at least one tablespoon and juice of a yellow onion- this is to taste! Now, no one wants to chomp down on a big piece of onion in their potato salad but fine grated onion adds so much to the flavor!
Mix well. Peel warm potatoes, the skins should slip right off. Cut into small cubes. Finely chop a good size stalk of celery. Peel the hard boiled eggs- on the large side of the same box grater, shred the hard boiled eggs. (Occasionally, if I get the eggs grated before the potatoes are ready I will go ahead and stir those into the mustard/mayonnaise mixture)
Add cubed potatoes, celery and eggs to the mayonnaise mixture- Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss carefully so the potatoes hold their shape. Sprinkle with a dusting of Paprika. Cover and Chill, if possible. Potato Salad gets better when it is chilled and the flavors have a chance to meld. This recipe makes 10-12 half cup servings.
*There are as many recipes for Potato Salad as there are families who love it. Make it your own. Make it all year round as some folks do. Celebrate milestones in your life with a bowl of Potato Salad added to a buffet table. Share your own memories and versions of Potato Salad! Marinated or German Potato Salad is also very good, perhaps beyond this Southern Girl’s expertise!
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine.