Sunday, August 15, 2010

Syracuse Salt Potatoes

I don't know how or where I stumbled upon this recipe, but when I did I found it intriguing. The thing that most intrigued me was this: in our day and age, we are trying to find ways to cut back on sodium (as my friend Eric reminded me last night at the Korean BBQ, when he was grilling me as to the nature of my inexplicable fascination with Sonic). That said, a recipe that encourages you to use as much salt as possible seems, well, odd. But that is exactly what I found recently: a recipe for salt potatoes. This comes from Syracuse, New York, America's "salt city". This is a simple and hearty recipe that grows out of three things: poverty (more so in the 19th century than today), proximity to a central area for the American salt industry, and a large Irish-American population.

As I found in this recipe from All the dish really is not that difficult. It is a little disturbing with all that salt you have to use, but it's rather easy. To summarize this recipe (again, it's not mine):

Take 4 pounds of potatoes (I used ones from the farmers' market) and clean (don't peel) them, then boil them in boiling water into which you have dissolved - gasp - 1 1/2 cups of salt.

That's a lotta salt

The recipe calls for fine salt but all I had was kosher. Perhaps there would be more salt penetration with fine salt. That's an exercise for another day. Boil for 15 minutes, and pour a stick of melted butter over top. To make the recipe a little less heart-unfriendly, I cut it down to 1/2 a stick of butter.

The potatoes indeed do not need salt. Even the kosher salt penetrates and makes them softer and more flavorful than merely boiling them in unsalted water. A commenter on one site said the potatoes take on a baked potato-like consistency. I don't know how often I will do this - it does use up a lot of salt, though you will still end up consuming far less than the 1 1/2 cups the recipe calls for. But it is a simple and, I might add, very filling way to use up your potatoes.


Mairead said...

Interesting -- I'll have to try this! My Nana's boiled recipes always called for a ton of salt, but I chalked that up to her abysmally bad cooking. Maybe it's just an Irish thing? (The coastal Irish recipes often call for salted seaweed, on top of salt in the recipe.)

Pretty excited that I can now blame my salt cravings on heritage. :)

John said...

AND I used a few of these potatoes to make a quick and easy potato salad to eat with some steamed crabs tonight: cube 4 of the potatoes, mix them with about 1/4 cup of Trader Joe's Wasabi Mayo, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons of dried) and just for funzees I added a chili that was growing in my garden. I grew it from seed!

Lotsabogeys said...

I grew up in the Syracuse area. Wegman's in Hunt Valley carries a bag of potatoes with a package of salt. It is a white bag that of course says Salt Potatoes. The potatoes are different than the one in your picture. You appear to have used red skin potatoes which have a thin skin. The potatoes in the bag at Wegman's are a white potatoe. I have not had salt potatoes in a very long time, but the ones that I remember had a skin like a baking potatoe or thicker. After the potatoes are taken out of the water and allowed to sit you will see salt crystalize on the potatoe. They are great with butter.