This is classic southern Virginia potato salad, the kind I was raised with in Chesterfield County in Southern Richmond, Virginia. My Dad used to make this when we were growing up, and it was always a hit whenever it was served and always one of our favorite dishes. I have only made some minor changes to the original recipe. Definitely a crowd pleaser. Whenever I have taken this dish to dinner gatherings, potlucks, etc., it was always the first dish to disappear. Oftentimes, even if there were other potato salad dishes, this one would go fast, and others would be left untouched. ‘Nuff said.
This is a very simple, easy to prepare recipe, but it is best prepared ahead of time and chilled overnight in the fridge, then served as a cold side dish the following day.
Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Fridge Time: Overnight (serve next day)
· Potatoes – (your choice; red, Idaho’s, whatever you like) about six large ones, or if red potatoes, a small bag (My Dad always like Russets, he called them “dirty potatoes.”)
· Eggs – boiled; 4-6 depending on your taste
· Sweet Gherkin Pickles, diced (also some of the juice)
· Black Olives, sliced, 1 sm can
· Mayonnaise – to taste
· Mustard – to taste
· Salt – to taste
· Onions – 1/3 of an avg size, sliced & diced ( you can adjust for taste)
· Whole celery seed
Peel/slice/dice potatoes. You want small cubes about ½” to maybe 5/8”. (Some people like larger 3/4″ “chunks”).
Boil the potatoes until soft (but not too soft – about 20-25 minutes) If using red potatoes, leave the peels on.
Boil eggs – place in cold water, bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook for 25 minutes.
When potatoes are done, put them into a large mixing bowl.
(*Note – some folks prefer to cook their potatoes whole, then refrigerate them and cut them up when they are cold. I believe this harms the recipe. One of the elements that makes this recipe so good is that mixing everything together while the potatoes are still warm allows the ingredients to meld together better, producing an overall much greater flavor experience – i.e., “true Virginia style…”)
Slice the boiled eggs, using a standard kitchen egg slicer. Add to mixture.
Slice the gherkins lengthwise, then chop crosswise to produce small diced chunks. Add to mixture.
Add black olives & onions; then salt & celery seed to taste.
Add mayonnaise; this is a critical step! – don’t add too much. It’s better to be a little light and then you can add more if needed. Suggest about 2 cups to start, then adjust.
Add mustard, sparingly, but enough to slightly color the mixture a little bit yellow. How much mustard will depend entirely on your taste. (You don’t want to add so much that the mustard taste overpowers the other flavors)
Mix everything with a blunt spoon, preferably a wooden one, so that you won’t crush the potatoes too much. The potatoes will break down somewhat as you mix, but this will greatly meld the ingredients and enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
Then finally – the secret ingredient! Pour some of the sweet gherkin juice into the mixture. This will soften the whole mix and add just a little sweetness. Don’t over do it, add a little at a time and taste until its just right.
Mix with a large spoon and taste. Any of the ingredients may be adjusted if the taste is not to your liking. When you’re satisfied you have the taste that you want, pat the mixture down lightly with a spoon, sprinkle paprika lightly on top, seal with saran wrap or cover with a lid.
Put entire mixture into refrigerator and chill for several hours. (Overnight is better).
Once it has chilled, serve it up and enjoy!