My sister Patsy was grumbling as she made potato salad for our Fourth of July picnic this year. At least, that’s what my brother-in-law Patrick told me. When I looked a little confused, he explained, “It was because she was having to write down quantities and how she did things for you.”
I had emailed her some questions about the list of ingredients for her potato salad (“I use potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, vinegar, milk….”) that she had jotted down for me. I am glad that I did, because I now have a recipe to share that you might like better than Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad.
Patsy explains that her recipe is actually our mother’s recipe, slightly tweaked by Patsy who leaves out the onion from part of it and adds a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and onion powder. Patsy says that Mom never wrote down the recipe. She simply mixed the ingredients together until the salad looked and tasted right.
Recipes do keep evolving, so feel free to tweak this one if you like. My suggestion, however, is that you make it this way the first time. You may not want to make any changes.
5 lbs. potatoes (about 15 medium)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion
8 large eggs
2 cups mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing
1 T prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (optional replacement for 1/4 tsp. regular salt)
1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T sugar
1 T vinegar
1/2 cup milk
Boil the potatoes in unsalted water with the jackets on until they are tender but not soft. Drain them and set them aside to cool, which will take at least an hour. While the potatoes are cooling, clean and chop an onion into a quarter inch dice. This is also the time to cook the eggs.
Cover the eggs with an inch of cold water and bring them to a boil. Boil them four or five minutes, cover them and set the pan aside for another nine or ten minutes. Drain and cool the eggs for ten minutes in ice water, then peel and set them aside.
Peel and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice until there are eight or nine cups of potatoes in a large bowl. Chop five of the eggs into about a quarter inch dice and mix them with the potatoes. If you’re making the salad with onion, mix it in now. If, like Patsy, you are giving your guests a choice of onion or no onion, wait to add the onion until you have mixed the salad with the sauce.
Make the sauce in a separate bowl. Combine the mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing with the mustard, salt, celery salt, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and milk and mix well. Pour this sauce over the potatoes and eggs. Gently toss the potato and egg mixture to coat everything with the sauce. Add a little more milk if necessary.
At this point Patsy moves one-third of the salad to a smaller bowl. She stirs a quarter teaspoon of onion powder into this bowl and stirs the chopped onion into the bowl with the two-thirds left in it.
To finish off the salads (if you make both versions), move them into two appropriate serving bowls. Smooth the salads and garnish the tops with slices of the the three remaining eggs. Then sprinkle some paprika on top for a nice, festive look. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until serving.
NOTES: Patsy writes, “The salad is fine the next day as the flavors blend, but I think making it the day you will use it is the best if that is possible. Just tastes fresher to me.”
She also noted, “Some people may want to add fresh celery, radishes, dill or sweet pickles, just any extras that they might want. The nice thing about making the salad yourself is that you can customize it to fit your tastes. Who knows what else people might like in their potato salad…. green pepper, jalapenos, bacon, ….”
I like Jerri’s Mom’s potato salad just a tiny bit more than Patsy’s, but they are both delicious. I have eaten versions with some of the optional ingredients Patsy mentions, but I prefer my potato salad like a good brandy: Straight Up!
Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad recipe calls for more salt. Jerri’s mother used to say, “Potatoes and cucumbers take more salt than you think they need,” so you may have to add a little more.