Cooking salt potatoes
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Salt potatoes are a regional dish of Syracuse, New York, typically served in the summer when the young potatoes are first harvested. They are a staple food at fairs and barbecues. In the Central New York region where they are the most popular, potatoes specifically intended for salt potatoes can be purchased by the bag along with packages of salt.
As the potatoes cook, the salty water forms a crust on the skin and seals the potatoes so they never taste waterlogged, as ordinary boiled potatoes often do. The potatoes have a unique texture closer to fluffy baked potatoes, only creamier. The standard recipe calls for one pound of salt for every four pounds of potatoes.
The Syracuse, New York, area has a long history of salt production. Salt springs located around Onondaga Lake were used to create consumable salt that was distributed throughout the northeast via the Erie Canal. Salinated brine was laid out to dry on large trays. The salt residue was then scraped up, ground, and packaged.
Salt potatoes originated in Syracuse and once comprised the bulk of a salt worker's daily diet. During the 1800s, Irish salt miners would bring a bag of small, unpeeled, substandard potatoes to work each day. Come lunch time, they boiled the potatoes in the "free-flowing" salt brine.
By the early 1900s, the potatoes were a Central New York favorite and a local entrepreneur, John Hinerwadel, started serving them as a side "at his famous clambakes." He later began packaging five-pound bags of potatoes along with a 12-ounce box of salt and labeled them Hinerwadel's Famous Original Salt Potatoes. The first packaged salt potatoes were sold in the 1960s. Today, Hinerwadel sells a million bags of salt potatoes annually.
Salt potatoes are bite-size "young" white potatoes scrubbed and boiled in their skins. The proper size potatoes are Size B, Grade US No. 2. The potatoes are small and their appearance and shape are not important.
According to a recipe, the cooking water contains salt in a ratio of one cup of salt to six cups of water, giving the dish its name, unique flavor, and texture. After cooking, salt potatoes are served with melted butter.
The resulting potatoes are creamy, as the starch in the potatoes cooks more completely due to the higher boiling temperature of the extra-salty water. The salty skin stands up particularly well to both herbed and plain melted butter.
Salt potatoes in Germany
In Germany there is also a similar tradition. Sometimes potatoes are peeled before cooking; this is called Salzkartoffeln and is used in many German dishes. Sometimes potatoes are peeled after the cooking, this is called Pellkartoffeln and they are eaten with butter or quark cheese.
- "Syracuse Salt Potatoes". Just Good Eats, 2004. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Liverpool, New York - Salt Museum". Roadside America, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
- Severson, Kim (21 August 2008). "Recipe: Central New York Salt Potatoes". The New York Times 22 August 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
- Salt Potatoes NY Times article and recipe for salt potatoes