To begin with, there are things like no others than can take me back to my childhood summers. The slam of the creaky screen door; the smell of beach fires (now, fire pits); the way the fresh air of the outdoors mixes with picnics on the porch or deck, and camping to make the food taste so much better! Yes each by themselves can bring me to a happy summer place.
Summer itself can elicit food cravings, too. Like charcoal grilled hamburgers and pickles and, of course, potato salad. I never think about potato salad in the winter, but come the 4th of July, it must be on my menu somewhere. Over the years we have a few favorite versions. All start pretty much the same way with cooking the potatoes in very salty boiling water (3 Tablespoons salt to 1 gallon water). This salty start ensures the potatoes will not be bland. While still hot, a drizzle of sherry vinegar is a favorite trick too, also imparting flavor that if we wait till the potato gets cold, it may not penetrate the starch meat of the potato rendering it a bit bland.
Some tips for making a potato salad “wow!”
1. Chill all ingredients before mixing; then chill again before snapping into a Tupperware- or like container to take to the picnic. That means chill the mayo, mustard, eggs, pickles and vegetables too. It will still warm up a little during preparation, so chilling again after it is mixed is a good practice when planning to take it on an outdoor picnic in the summer. When eating it right away, mix away and serve.
2. Using commercial mayo rather than homemade is really a good idea for food safety since its pH is regulated and safely acidic.
3. Try taking the separate components of a potato salad to the picnic and let people assemble what they want. We definitely include our salty potatoes on a picnic, sometimes all by themselves; and when we let people choose what they want for their salad, we leave the dressing on the side for dipping instead of coating before leaving home. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt we use when cooking these salty potatoes–remember the skin on the potatoes must not be broken for best results–rendering the outside salty and the inside creamy!
If you like the classic potato salad of egg, celery, pickle with mayo dressing, check out this recipe for our version of a not-so-typical classic potato salad!