One of the best things about Upstate New York is my husband. He loves Chicken BBQ by the way. The ubiquitous accompaniement to the popular Upstate New York BBQ is the salt potato. They're non-descript in appearance, but don't let that fool you. Here in the Finger Lakes Region we can find cleverly pre-packaged 'salt potato' bags in the produce section next to the baking potatoes, but you can reproduce this at your home, regardless of where you live. Salt potatoes, it turns out, are a regional specialty in the Central New York area, specifically Syracuse - about an hour from here.
Syracuse is famous for its salt mines and is today home to the Salt Museum, which tells the story of the salt potato: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/952
"In the 1700s & 1800s, perhaps even earlier, this Salt plant produced almost all of the nations salt. Add the salt production to the Erie Canal and you can see what a prosperous location Syracuse was during that time. Water taken from the Onondaga Lake was boiled down, or set out in the sun for evaporation in huge bowls. As most of the workers were Irish they brought along their potatoes for their meals and would place the potatoes in the boiling vats to cook giving you the famous salt potatoes. Syracuse is well known for its salt potatoes to this day! (Nowadays all they are, are very small potatoes boiled whole with the skins on in very salty water. 4 lbs potatoes to 1 lb of salt). Eat these dipped in melted butter and you have a great treat. By the 1870s this way of making salt was obsolete and the factory folded. "
Reportedly Hinderwadel's, a local company, began hosting big company clambakes, and helped salt potatoes catch on in the 1930s, long after the original Irish workers had long been out of work. Nowadays, you can boil 4 lbs. of new potatoes in a big pot of water with 1 cup of salt, and not have to haul Onondaga lake water. You can substitute little red potatoes, the taste is a little creamier, and you'll be delighted.
Salt potatoes are really great just drizzled with butter, in a bowl, eaten with your fingers. Ask my children, after I pass them a napkin. And while it is a large quantity of salt, the potatoes taste merely well seasoned, and not overly salty. Try them. They're really good alongside a clambake, bbq chicken, or anything you grill.
So let's go put on a big pot of water, sort through the new potatoes, and put on an Upstate New York treat for dinner.
Upstate New York Salt Potatoes
4 lbs. new potatoes (larger than fingerlings, smaller than a fist, sometimes called creamers)
About 5 quarts of water
1 cup of salt, iodized or not, kosher, whatever you have
A big stockpot.
Wash your potatoes, picking out any with bad spots. Put your potatoes in the pot, and cover with water, plus an inch. Pour 1 cup of salt over the top, and put the lid on the pot. Set on high heat. When it comes to a boil, turn to med. high and cook for approximately 25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender, but not split.
Drain the potatoes, and add 1/2 cup of butter or margarine. These are typically dished up into a bowl, and the eaters spear them with a fork or eat them with their fingers at a bbq. Serves 8 adults and a couple of children.
I'm getting hungry just thinking about them. You have to try small potatoes this way. Leftovers make good fried potatoes at breakfast the next morning. Just don't add extra salt when you fry them.
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