Meghan: "I went to Hannaford's to see if salt potatoes are in, but they didn't have any. The guy there said he's never heard of them."
Me: "What are salt potatoes?"
Meghan: "You've never heard of salt potatoes?!?"
She explained that "salt potatoes" are small, white potatoes that come in a bag along with a packet of salt. The packet of salt gets added to the cooking water for the potatoes. "Then," she said, "you eat them hot with lots of butter." Sounds simple. Sounds delicious!
Shortly after that conversation Meghan made a trip to Syracuse, NY where she grew up, and there managed find her salt potatoes. She also brought back an extra bag for lucky me! This bag was Hinerwadel's Famous Salt Potatoes, "Now with "Less Salt, More Potatoes".
I cooked them up exactly to the original recipe on the bag. Those little, steaming potatoes with white rings and swirls covering the skins were sublimely salty and buttery! The skins on the potatoes had taken on a thin crust of salt, and the potato inside was soft and fluffy. Christian and I had them for dinner, nothing else, just those wonderful potatoes.
Wikipedia gave me this historical information about salt 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 1800's, 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."
I checked with other New York folks to see who knew about these potatoes. (Who else had been keeping them from me?) I started with my mom who grew up Hoosick Falls, NY, about an hour outside of Albany. She had never heard of them, too far south apparently. Next I checked with her brother, my Uncle Jack who lives in the Rochester, NY area as well as my cousin Meghann who lives over there with her family, too. Bingo! Though they had not heard of Hinerwadel's, my cousin said that there were many brands of potatoes that came packaged like that. They both agree that salt potatoes are yummy! My uncle said they're usually served at clambakes and lobster bakes.
This seems to align with history of the Hinerwadel brand. Their website says that John Hinerwadel began selling salt potatoes at his popular clambakes in the early 1900's. One hundred-plus years later, and selling about a million bags each year they are still going strong.
I'm very happy to now know of this method of cooking potatoes and will probably try to replicate it at home. More than that I just love learning of regional favorites like this, with their own little historical tale and devoted local fans. Hinerwadel's has the perfect formula figured out... it's not just any old potato with a dash of salt. It's small white potatoes, skins left on, scrubbed clean, and boiled in water to which 12 ounces of very fine salt have been added. I'm sharing below the recipe right off the Hinerwadel's bag, and visit their website at Hinerwadels.com. And take it from my friend Meghan: don't forget the butter, lots of it!
Who else out there has heard of salt potatoes?
Hinerwadel's Salt Potatoes: Original Recipe
Ingredients (inside the Hinerwadel's bag):
- 5 lbs. small white potatoes
- 12 oz. salt packet (fine grain, like pickling salt)
- Place 4 quarts of water in a pot with the entire contents of the salt packet, and bring to a boil.
- Add all the potatoes and cook about 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and serve hot.
- Eat them plain, or melt butter or margarine on top. Leave the skins on though, they're the best part!