Thursday, June 6, 2013

Southern Style Potato Salad Recipe: Virginia Community Cookbook Edition

It's officially summer, which means cookouts, picnics, family reunions, outdoor grilling, and 4th of July festivities, and I can't think of a better addition to any table spread than a big bowl of Southern style potato salad. While everyone has their own unique take on this popular side dish often from recipes handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter, I just love noshing on the Southern classic version made with hot potatoes doused in a bit of vinegar (it gives them depth of flavor) that are mixed with mayo, onions, celery and a couple of spoonfuls of sweet pickle relish or homemade chow chow relish which is a little secret ingredient I like to add.

In the past, I've always made my mom's potato salad recipe, but this time I decided to crack open an old friend, my copy of Green Springs Country Cooking, a community cookbook published in 1975 by the Historic Green Springs society from Louisa County, Virginia. Historic Green Springs is a national landmark in the heart of Virginia's Piedmont that carries a fascinating history dating back to the pre-Civil War era with protected property spanning over 14,000 acres. Many family plantations and farms still stand in their original form here, allowing visitors a rare glimpse into the oldways of Virginia life during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The beauty of this cookbook, in addition to the fact that many of the recipes are heirloom ones generously shared by family and friends who have lived in this area for hundreds of years, is that each one has been painstakingly handwritten in the original author's best penmanship. Some even include campy sketches.
From Jell-O salads and sausage balls to how to properly soak and season a country ham, it's all in here. There are even recipes for making your own hard soap and some key advice on distilling your own moonshine. Just don't get caught with the latter.
There's nary a drippy close-up of some perfectly sauced meat or any expertly staged photos of chocolate cakes or parfaits in this cookbook since it doesn't boast a single photo. What you get instead are what these kinds of cookbooks are really about, collections of tried and true recipes generously shared by home cooks just like you and me. This is why I am constantly drawn to church and community cookbooks over the flashier contemporary ones. Perhaps it's the simplicity of being so proud of your special dish that you can't wait to share it with the rest of the world, and isn't that what cooking, cookbooks and recipes are really all about?

So, here's my share or should I say Mrs. Paul Farley's share from "Ben Lomond" in Gordonsville, Virginia. If you ever happen to see her, please tell her I said thanks for the great recipe.
Potato Salad
By Mrs. Paul Farley from "Green Springs Country Cooking" (1975)

2 1/2 cups diced cooked potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar. Add all other ingredients and toss lightly. Chill. Serve in lettuce lined bowl and garnish with parsley, sliced radishes, cucumbers and hard-boiled egg slices, if desired.

For a change of pace and extra crunch, add 1/4 cup sliced sweet pickles*.

*Kendra's note: Try adding chow chow relish instead. Adds an amazing sweet tang to the salad.

©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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1 comment:

  1. I found your page when I was scrolling through Pinterest. Been scrolling your blog for an hour haha! I absolutely adore church cookbooks. You know those recipes are tried and true, tested in that person's own family for who knows how long. I'm always searching yard sales and flea markets for new finds (I have 72 at the last count!) I love cooking from them, most of them I just love to sit down and read. There is just something about those type of cookbooks that I am drawn to!

    Jasmine F. :)


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