Monday, January 06, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Hot German Potato Salad

Imagine getting through the winter without a single green vegetable. That was reality for the early pioneers. After homesteading, their first priority was to build a house and plant potatoes. Potatoes were a staple food along with bread, oatmeal, dried fruit (such as raisins and prunes), salt pork and wild game, when available.

Potatoes were served in creative ways, not just mashed and roasted, but also in soup, perogies, pies and cookies, biscuits and potato bread such as Norwegian lefse. Mashed potato was also used as a starter for making bread before commercial yeast was available.

Hopefully, the store of potatoes lasted until spring, but that was not always the case. One family of Barr Colonists (settlers from England who came here in 1903) lost their entire potato crop one frigid night in December. The potatoes were kept in a cellar dug under the floor of their little house, but the hole wasn't deep enough. One night, the fire went out and the whole house froze, including the bread that was rising on the stove and, sadly, the entire store of potatoes.

"We tried thawing them in both hot and cold water, baking them and boiling them in their skins, but no matter how we treated them they tasted horrible, like sweet potatoes gone sour," writes Mary (Pinder) Hiemstra in her memoire Gully Farm. Without potatoes, she says a typical meal that winter was wild rabbit, stewed prunes, bread and tea. Not a vegetable in sight – until the first greens of spring.

Warm German Potato Salad
1 lb potatoes (3 medium)
3 slices bacon, small dice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Boil whole potatoes in water until they can be pierced through with a sharp knife. Cool slightly, peel and slice about 1/4 inch thick.

While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the bacon until soft. Add onion and cook until bacon is done. Add chicken broth and vinegar and heat through, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste. Pour the bacon mixture onto the warm potatoes and toss gently. Eat warm, perhaps sprinkled with chopped chives or parsley, if available.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


Billy Brewer said...

This is another of my Mother's family the Rzepka's signature dishes. They were from the old province of Silesia.
Boy does this ever sound good.
Keep warm. Body and Soul.

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Thanks, Bill. Bacon and potatoes can't go wrong. Yes, we are staying warm up here in Sask-Siberia but it's pretty hard these days. :)