When I was looking for a side for My Sister’s Spiedies (and later I served them with my New York Chicken Spiedies) I saw a comment on Youtube from a lady who said she always served Syracuse Salted Potatoes with her Spiedies. I was intrigued. See, I’ve heard of potatoes baked in a salt crust, but this was a new one on me!
Syracuse Salted Potatoes is a regional specialty from the Syracuse, New York area, dating back to when the Irish salt workers would dunk their potatoes into a basket and lower them into vats of boiling marsh water being processed for the salt. Then they’d have them for lunch. They’re also sold at fairs and events, in baskets with butter for dipping.
About Syracuse Salted Potatoes:
These potatoes are crazy simple. Three ingredients, not counting the water: potatoes, salt, and lots of it, and butter. And yet the way they are cooked simply transforms them into something that’s really very special.
Since crazy simple often means crazy good, I had to try them, sodium levels be darned. There is a little punch from the salt, but surprisingly, they aren’t too salty. I know they look a little odd but that’s the salt at work. For one, the potatoes are a little wrinkly and for another, you can see they’re almost white, covered with a fine layer of salt. When you dip the potatoes in the melted butter, it’s kind of like dipping a plain old rock into water and seeing it transform; that’s when the potatoes really shine both in looks and taste.
That doesn’t speak to what you’re going to find inside, though. This cooking method makes the potatoes gorgeous and creamy and makes them taste wonderful. That being said, they are just a potato, but if you can appreciate a potato just for their own flavor, you’ll appreciate these. They’re perfect as a side, and they’ll make a wonderful appetizer, too. They almost make me wish I were a tailgater – I could see them being a hot item!
Making Syracuse Salted Potatoes:
There’s really not too much to making Syracuse Salted Potatoes. You just cook the potatoes in salted water until tender when pierced with a knife. There are a couple of things to know.
These potatoes need to be the right size, (size B) one to two inches, and red potatoes seem to be the potato of choice. I’ve used Yukon potatoes before because that’s what I had in the cupboard, but any baby potato is wonderful. Last time I made these I used the fancy small potatoes (in the pics) but I think they were a bit of a waste in the recipe an I’ll be sticking with more basic potatoes in the future. I have found that the smaller the potatoes, the usually the more wrinkly and salty they seem to be, probably because there is more surface area.
Make sure you get the brine right; the basic is about one pound of salt for every four pounds of potatoes. That’s about 1 2/3 cup of table salt. Sea salt is trickier because the size of the flakes can make a big difference in the volume depending on how small or large the flakes are. Kosher salt can be a bit of a variable, too, but you’ll find about 1 1/2 cups will get you pretty close to a pound. I did pick up one little trick, recently, and that is to remove the potatoes from the water and drop them on a rack; as they dry the salt covers them a bit more evenly.
When I heat the butter, and this sounds odd, but this works so well, and keeps the butter creamy and keeps it from separating. I heat it just until almost melted, even leaving a few small chunks, stir it together and then let it sit for a bit slightly cooling and stirring now and then. If it hardens too much, I just rewarm very gently. Then it coats the potatoes so beautifully and doesn’t seem greasy at all.
Saving Money on Syracuse Salted Potatoes:
IFor a quick minute, I was horrified at the amount of salt in this recipe because of the sodium, but because it also seems like such a waste to dump it down the drain. And then I stepped back and thought, “salt is cheap” and it really is. If you’re buying table salt, there really isn’t much difference between the different brands. Generic or salt from Aldi is just fine. If you’re used to going high end, maybe just for this recipe you might want to step back and buy basic salt. Save the “good stuff” for when it really matters.
As far as potatoes, again, save the good ones for when it really matters! My fancy colored potatoes were kind of wasted in this recipe. Do buy small potatoes, and those are always cheapest in late summer or fall. That’s a great time to think about making this recipe more often. Even offseason, though, this recipe shouldn’t break the bank.
Butter is at a great price at Aldi or you buyer’s club, but if neither is an option, shop the sales and stock up! Get yourself a freezer if you don’t have one, and fill it with sales priced butter. You’ll usually find the best prices on butter during any holiday sale, but especially before the winter holidays and pre-Easter.
Syracuse Salted Potatoes
- 4 pounds baby potatoes, 1 to 2″ in diameter, whole
- 1 2/3 cups table salt
- 1 gallon (4 quarts) boiling water
- butter (about a stick, slowly melted and stirred together)
Bring salt and water to a boil and gently stir to dissolve salt. Add potatoes (they should float if there is enough salt, if not add a little more) and cook 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
Drain, give the potatoes a quick shake and allow to dry so the salt “crust” forms. If a rack is available, place the potatoes on the rack after draining to dry.
To serve family style, while still hot, add to a bowl. Toss with butter and serve. When serving, pass the salty butter from the bottom of the dish to use over the potatoes. Another option is to serve the potatoes and give everyone a small portion of butter. If serving as an appetizer, put the butter in a dish and surround with the potatoes.
And, as I do almost every Friday, I’ll be linking up to Angie’s Fiesta Friday – this is Number 136, hosted this week by Judi of Cooking with Aunt Juju. Be sure to stop by Saucy Saturdays, too, my fave Saturday party place!