Growing up, I loved potato salad – it was this delicious pickle and apple potato salad that was both crunchy and a little bit sweet. It was my favorite, even though our get-togethers were filled with so many salad varieties to choose from, mostly potato based. There was the bright yellow mustard salad (potatoes, mashed and creamed with mustard and a few other things that I can’t remember), and it’s cousin, the bright pink beet salad (potatoes mashed with beet juice and maybe some small pieces of pickled beets – not sure, I hated the beet one), pasta salad, Caesar salad… you name it. Our potlucks were always full of these beautiful looking salads. But the potato salad was always my favorite.
(SIDE NOTE: I should mention that I grew up in on the east coast of Canada, in a province called Newfoundland. Our food was always very distinct from the rest of the country, mostly because of our Irish heritage, and also because of our history as a fishing province – you grew what would last out on the boat. You also grew what you could on a rock. Potato was a very common denominator in many of our childhood meals.)
It wasn’t until I got married and left Newfoundland that I realized what I considered potato salad was foreign to everyone else in the country. “You put what in a potato salad?!” was the response whenever I questioned why there was bacon and onion in my potato salad, so I eventually stopped questioning. Now don’t get me wrong, I love bacon, but everything has a time and place, and bacon’s is not in potato salad – at least it wasn’t for me.
One thing that always frustrated me about my mom was this: I would say “How much mayo do I put in potato salad, Mom?” Her response? “Until it looks right.” I would ask, “How many apples should I chop, Mom?” I got the same response. “Until it looks right. I don’t know what else to tell you. Add apples until it looks right.”
Now my mom has passed away and I swear for all of my family favorites, the only pearls of wisdom I have are “Until it looks right” or the occasional “Until it tastes right”. This used to frustrate me, but now I realize its the only way you can make things like this, like potato salad. You have to add mayo until it looks right. So I am sorry to frustrate you like my Mom frustrated me, but I will give you some tips on when to know it’s the right amount.
First of all, boil your potatoes, along with about 6 eggs. MAKE SURE TO SALT YOUR WATER – just like you would do when you cook pasta. Lets say we are boiling 10 potatoes for the purposes of this recipe. This will easily feed 10 people. Peel, chop, and boil the potatoes until they are cooked but not falling apart. Remove from the water along with the eggs and let cool.
While the potatoes cool, chop apples (tart, crisp apples like Spartan work well, and also McIntosh or Granny Smith) and sweet pickles. I use about a cup of sweet mixed pickles, and I don’t dry them off. The little bit of juice adds to the mayo and makes a nice dressing. As for the apples, I used about 2 small Spartans, diced up. After your eggs have cooled, chop the whole egg up – the yolk will also mash up and form part of the “dressing” on it’s own. And don’t worry, you can’t add too many pickles, apples, or eggs. It’s impossible.
Once your potatoes have cooled, cut them as small as you would like, and put in a bowl along with the chopped apples, pickles, and eggs. Now for the only part that you can add to much of, and it’s a totally subjective amount. The mayo. Some people like their potato salad very wet. I like it in the middle, with slightly less mayo. How I make sure I don’t add too much? I start with half a cup. I give it a little stir, and add a big spoonful if I need more, and stir again. I repeat this process “until it looks right”. And it’s okay – go with your instinct. You will know when it is enough. As you stir, season with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate until it is time to serve – and the longer the better I think! I like to make this early in the morning or even the night before to serve because it gives the flavours a chance to mingle and hang out and taste even better. But I also love this salad as cold as possible – it keeps those apples firm and crunchy.
Does your family have any recipes that might be considered “odd” but taste truly delicious?