When I asked my family how they make their potato salad, they all provided recipes that called for similar ingredients: chunky, unpeeled potatoes (either red new, brown russet or Yukon gold potatoes), green onions, celery, hard-boiled eggs, sweet pickles, mustard and mayonnaise. And if you’re on my dad’s side of the family, you stir in some Durkee’s as well.
This is the potato salad that always graced the table at our family barbecues—a thick mouthful that was soft and crunchy, tangy and sweet. But as I asked friends that hail from other regions of the country how they make their potato salads, their recipes sounded shockingly similar.
My family assured me, “Yes, this is how we do it.”
But is it particularly Texan?
People say it’s the mustard that makes a potato salad a Texas potato salad, but doesn’t everyone use mustard? Perhaps we just use more.
Of course, we also eat a lot of German potato salad in Texas. This concoction, most commonly found in the Hill Country, is usually served warm (though it’s also delicious cold). It’s a mix of red new potatoes, bacon, green onions, mustard and vinegar—with nary a dollop of mayonnaise to be found.
Sure, mustard is a quintessential Texas condiment. But so are pickled jalapenos. And why aren’t these in a Texas potato salad? Heck, even my mom—who is the queen of pickled jalapenos and its juice—doesn’t add it to hers. “Why not,” I asked. She didn’t have an answer, but insisted that sweet pickles are a key ingredient that compliments the other flavors.
Even though I’m no fan of sweet pickles, apparently I’ve been eating them in my potato salad my whole life without complaint, so I could see her point. But I still felt that a Texas potato salad needed jalapenos. So I compromised and made a batch of bread and butter jalapeno pickles and added that instead.
I love it when I have a hunch and it’s proven correct. And yes, these bread and butter jalapenos were a wonderful balance—sweet enough to be pleasing to the tongue yet fiery enough to make my lips tingle. Bread and butter jalapeno pickles were just what I needed to perk up my potato salad and make it my Texas potato salad.
But enough about me, what does Texas potato salad mean to you?
2 pounds of red new potatoes, cubed
2 celery stalks, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of bread and butter jalapenos, diced (recipe follows or you can use store bought)
1/4 cup of yellow mustard
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon bread and butter jalapeno pickle juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Should be tender but not mushy.
Drain potatoes and rinse in cold water. Toss with vinegar and salt, and let cool in the refrigerator for half an hour.
After the potatoes have cooled, gently stir in the mustard and mayonnaise into the potatoes and then add the rest of the ingredients.
Yield: Four to six servings
Note: Lots of people like to also add dill pickles and sliced eggs and it always tastes good. And I used red new potatoes because that’s what my grandmother grows on her farm, but you can also use Yukon gold or any other potato that you prefer. I also leave my potatoes unpeeled because I like the texture and flavor of the skins, but feel free to peel your potatoes if that’s how you like them.
Bread and butter jalapeno pickles
1/2 pound jalapenos (about four)
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
Pack into a pint-sized jar the sliced jalapenos
Bring the vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil, and pour over the jalapenos.
Let cool (about half an hour) and then cover and refrigerate.
Will be ready in a couple of hours, but I like to let them pickle overnight.