Luckily some people used to scribble down recipes and keep them in shoe-boxes in the South. There just weren’t that many cookbooks, and a lot of cooks just cooked by putting in this and that and “butter the size of an egg.” Girls (and a very few boys) learned to cook by watching and doing. A few people then though did write down directions for family, friends and now the generations to follow.

Southern Potato Salad with Bacon Grease Like Grandma Used to Make

Old Fashioned Potato Salad is an old shoebox recipe.

It probably dates to the 30s or 40s. Unlike some recipes from that time that suggest a dab or a smidge, this one is exact enough to replicate (especially with some measuring and checking).

The name is actually just “Potato Salad.” There are so many versions now that this one needed a name to reflect the history, so it’s now “Old Fashioned Potato Salad.”

Back during this time, folks cooked with what they had on hand. Many people had no cooling systems, so that knocked out mayonnaise and salad dressing.

On the other hand, most cooks fried up bacon really often, so the base for the dressing or sauce here is bacon grease. If you’re having a cookout, then fry some bacon for the baked beans and save the grease for the potato salad. Or, you can put back some bacon grease when you fry. It can be stored in the refrigerator to extend the life of the grease.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion (chopped fine)
  • 1 stalk celery (cut pretty fine)
  • 1 cucumber (in small chunks)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 TBS bacon grease
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 TBS plain flour

Directions:

  1. Cook potatoes whole in jackets. Do not overcook.
  2. Let the potatoes cool enough to handle. Peel them and cut in chunks.
  3. Cool the potato chunks. This is faster today in the refrigerator.
  4. Add onion, celery and cucumber. Use all or just the ones you have or like.
  5. Put the vinegar, bacon grease, salt, pepper, and celery salt in a sauce pan on top of the stove. Heat right up to the boiling point. When it’s good and hot stir or whisk in the flour to thicken.
  6. Pour the warm sauce over the potato mixture. Then chill for several hours or overnight.

*This potato salad recipe is also good with hard boiled eggs. If you’re making deviled eggs too, then make 3 or 4 extra. Add the chopped boiled eggs to the potato mixture before adding the sauce.