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Cooking: Potatoes-Fourteen Ways of Dressing Them

Potato is King. The vegetable kingdom affords no food more wholesome, more easily prepared, or less expensive than the potato; yet although this most useful vegetable is dressed almost every day in almost every family, for one plate of potatoes that comes to the table as it should, ten are spoiled. Be careful in your choice of potatoes; no vegetable varies so much in color, size, shape, consistence and flavor. Choose those of a large size, free from blemishes and fresh and buy them in the autumn; they must not be wetted till they are cleaned to be cooked. Protect them from the air and frost by laying them in heaps in a cellar, covering them with mats, or burying them in sand or in earth. The action of frost is most destructive; if it be considerable, the life of the vegetable is destroyed, and the potato speedily rots.

1. Potatoes Boiled. Wash them, but do not pare or cut them unless they are very large; fill a saucepan half full of potatoes of equal size, put to them as much cold water as will cover them about an inch; they are sooner boiled, and more savory than when drowned in water; most boiled things are spoiled by having too little water, but potatoes are often spoiled by too much; they must merely be covered, and a little allowed for waste in boiling, so that they may be just covered at the finish.

Set them on a moderate fire till they boil, then take them off and set them by the side of the fire to simmer slowly till they are soft enough to admit a fork (place no dependence on the usual test of their skin cracking, which, if they are boiled fast, will happen to some potatoes when they are not half done, and the inside is quite hard) then pour the water off (if you let the potatoes remain in the water a moment after they are done enough they will become waxy and watery) uncover the saucepan and set it at such a distance from the fire as will secure it from burning; their superfluous moisture will evaporate and the potatoes will be perfectly dry and mealy.

You may afterwards place a napkin, folded up to the size of the saucepan's diameter, over the potatoes, to keep them hot and mealy till wanted. This method of managing potatoes is in every respect equal to steaming them; and they are dressed in half the time.

There is such an infinite variety of sorts and sizes of potatoes that it is impossible to say how long they will take to cook; the best way is to try them with a fork. Moderate sized potatoes will generally be done in fifteen or twenty minutes.

2. Cold Potatoes Fried. Put a bit of clean dripping into a frying pan; when it is melted, slice in your potatoes with a little salt and pepper, put on the fire, keep stirring them; when they are quite hot they are ready.

3. Potatoes Boiled and Broiled. Dress your potatoes as before directed and put them on a gridiron over a very clear and brisk fire; turn them till they are brown all over, and send them up dry, with melted butter in a cup.

4. Potatoes Fried in Slices or Shavings. Peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth and fry them in drippings. Take care that your fat and frying pan are quite clean; put the pan on a quick fire, watch it, and when the drippings boil, put in the slices of potatoes and keep moving them till they are crisp; take them up and lay them to drain on a sieve; send them up with a very little salt sprinkled over them.

5. Potatoes Fried Whole. When nearly boiled enough, as directed in No. 1, put them into a stew pan with a bit of butter, or some nice clean beef drippings; shake them about often (for fear of burning them) till they are brown and crisp; drain them from the fat. It will be an improvement to the three last recipes, previously to frying or broiling the potatoes, to flour them and dip them in the yolk of an egg, and then roll them in fine sifted bread

6. Potatoes Mashed. When your potatoes are thoroughly boiled, drain dry, pick out every speck, etc., and while hot rub them through a colander into a clean stewpan; to a pound of potatoes put about half an ounce of butter and a tablespoonful of milk; do not make them too moist; mix them well together.

7. Potatoes Mashed with Onions. Prepare some boiled onions by putting them through a sieve, and mix them with potatoes. In proportioning the onions to the potatoes, you will be guided by your wish to have more or less of their flavor.

8. Potatoes Escalloped. Mash potatoes as directed in No. 6, then make them smooth at the top, cross a knife over them, strew a few fine bread crumbs on them, sprinkle them with a paste brush with a few drops of melted butter and then set them in a Dutch oven; butter some nice clean scallop shells, or patty

9. Colcannon. Boil potatoes and greens, or spinach, separately mash the potatoes, squeeze the greens dry, chop them quite fine, and mix them with the potatoes with a little butter, pepper and salt; put it into a mould, greasing it well first; let it stand in a hot oven for ten minutes.

10. Potatoes Roasted. Wash and dry your potatoes (all of a size) and put them in a tin Dutch oven, or cheese toaster; take care not to put them too near the fire, or they will get burned on the outside before they are warmed through. Large potatoes will require two hours to roast them.

11. Potatoes Roasted under Meat. Half boil large potatoes, drain the water from them, and put them into an earthen dish, or small tin pan, under meat that is roasting, and baste them with some of the drippings; when they are browned on one side turn them and brown the other; send them up around the meat, or in a small dish.

12. Potato Balls. Mix mashed potatoes with the yolk of an egg, roll them into balls, flour them or egg and bread crumb them, and fry them in clean drippings, or brown them in Dutch oven.

13. Potato Snow. The potatoes must be free from spots, and the whitest you can pick. Put them on in cold water; when they begin to crack, strain the water from them and put them into a clean stew-pan by the side of the fire till they are quite dry and fall to pieces; rub them through a wire sieve in the dish they are to be sent up in, and do not disturb them afterwards.

14. Potato Pie. Peel and slice your potatoes very thin into a pie dish; between each layer of potatoes put a little chopped onion (three quarters of an ounce of onion is sufficient for a pound of potatoes) between each layer, sprinkle a little pepper and salt, put in a little water, and cut about two ounces of fresh butter into little bits, and lay it on the top, cover it close with puff paste. It will take about an hour and a half to bake it From an old cook book.

The potato was more generally used than any other vegetable. Remember, the first pioneers turned water on the arid ground, plowed and planted their seed potatoes. Boiling was the favorite method of cooking the potato but on Sundays or on special holidays mashed potatoes were served. To the well cooked mashed potatoes were added a lump of butter, a bit of salt and hot milk or cream to moisten. On wash day baked potatoes and beans were served for the main meal of the day. Generally in days of plenty, enough potatoes were cooked, so that the leftovers could be warmed up for breakfast. Pork drippings were saved for this purpose. New potatoes were usually creamed to make them go farther. Parsley was sometimes added for flavor.

Journey Potatoes. Peel and slice 4 medium potatoes, thin; 1 medium onion, sliced thin; 1 tsp. salt; cover with water and bring to a boil 3 minutes; remove from the fire and add 2 cups milk; let simmer until heated through.

Scalloped Potatoes. Peel and slice raw potatoes thin, butter a baking dish, put in a layer of potatoes and season with salt, pepper, butter and a bit of onion chopped fine, if liked; sprinkle with flour; now put another layer of potatoes and seasoning and continue until the dish is filled. Just before putting in the oven pour a quart of hot milk over all. Bake 45 minutes. Cold boiled potatoes may be cooked the same way. It requires less time to bake them.

Quilter's Potato Salad. Myrtle Lee's grandmother served this to the ladies who came to quilt or to sew carpet rags: 3 large potatoes; 3 hard cooked eggs; 4 tbs. minced onion; salt and pepper. Dressing: 1 tsp. dry mustard; 1 tsp. salt; 3 tbs. melted butter; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup hot vinegar; 1 cup cream, whipped. Cook potatoes with jackets on. Cool, skin and dice; add chopped hard-cooked eggs, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside a few minutes before adding the dressing. Mix mustard, salt and sugar; beat eggs with melted butter and hot vinegar; cook over boiling water or low heat until thick. Cool. Combine with whipped cream and mix with potatoes.

Mrs. Jack Prisby's Potato Cakes. Recipe brought from Austria by her grandmother. 3 tbs. lard; 6 medium potatoes; 2 tsp. salt; 1/2 cup milk; .2 eggs; 1 cup flour. Wash and peel potatoes and grate. Add salt, milk, eggs, and flour. Heat shortening in a skillet and drop potato mixture by spoonsful onto skillet. Fry golden brown on both sides. Makes 4 servings. Delicious hot or cold, with meat, fish or salad.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.