This potato salad recipe is an old family recipe that my Aunt Rose made every year for our family picnic, which included about 125 relatives. The yearly picnic started before I was born and continued for decades. Each year relatives would arrive at the picnic and check the food table for Rose’s potato salad. They would exhale with relief that Aunt Rose was still making her famous potato salad. This potato salad is comfort food and just the right combination of simple ingredients. Nothing fancy or gourmet, just good old-fashioned potato salad. My family gatherings were centered around food, and this picnic was no exception.
The other focus of the picnic was sports. First, there was a baseball game, which pitted the most athletic branch of the family against all the other branches. My cousins took the game very seriously. One year there was an infamous incident in which two of the elder members of my family started to get into a fist fight over an umpire’s call. Next came the picnic games, which were much more light-hearted. Sometimes there was a sack race or a three-legged race. The highlight was always the egg toss. People of all ages participated, and I looked forward to seeing which cousin would pull a prank with the eggs. Most of all, the best part of the day was hanging out with my cousins.
This group was a very tight-knit band of cousins who called themselves “The Cousins Club.” There were 20 original members– my mother, her siblings, and all their first cousins. Spouses were in the club too, bringing the total membership to around 40. The Cousins Club had bi-monthly get togethers for decades. It was like a secret society because only the oldest generation of cousins was invited to the meetings. The yearly family picnic was the only exception as all ages were included for that event. These cousins weren’t just relatives; they were friends who knew how to support each other and how to have fun together. Their strong bond helped them adapt as recent immigrants who lived through tough times. Today there are nine members still alive, including my cousin Sam who is the last remaining relative who was born in Czarist Russia almost a century ago.
The Cousins Club is no longer active as most of the members are gone. The original group was so tight-knit that they never let in the younger generation as new members. However, the club lives on in my heart. And the club lives on in spirit with the bond I have with the cousins of my generation. One thing that ties my cousins and I together is recipes. So, I share this recipe in honor of my Aunt Rose and The Cousins Club. This recipe is a favorite of my cousin Matt, and he has been wanting the recipe for a while. Now he and the rest of us can make this potato salad recipe and bring back a piece of the Cousins Club picnic from a former era.
Here are the potato salad ingredients:
One year I tried Red, White and Blue potatoes for the 4th of July. Although I think the idea is cute, my family prefers to keep this potato salad tradition exactly the way Aunt Rose created it. Some traditions you just can’t change.
Recipe for Aunt Rose’s Potato Salad
Serves 12 to 16 as a side dish
3 pounds white rose potatoes
3 celery hearts ribs, chopped in very small pieces (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup finely grated sweet onion (which is about 1/4 onion)
3 hard boiled large eggs, chopped small (optional)
1-1/2 teaspoons regular yellow mustard (or Dijon Mustard for more of a kick)
2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise (plus up to 1/4 cup more)
1. Wash potatoes and place them in a large pot. Add a generous amount of water, and make sure to completely cover the potatoes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Let the water come to a boil. Cook potatoes in boiling water until potatoes are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Tip: if using eggs, boil them in the water with the potatoes for the first 11 minutes.
2. Let the potatoes cool slightly. Peel the warm potatoes by pulling the skin off. Cut into bite-sized cubes. Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients on top of the potatoes while the potatoes are still warm. Gently fold everything together so that the ingredients evenly coat the potatoes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Check for moistness, and add another dollop of mayonnaise, if you like it more moist.
4. Refrigerate and served chilled. I like to let the flavors meld overnight and serve the next day. The mayonnaise tends to absorb into the potatoes overnight, so in the morning I usually add 1 dollop more of mayonnaise (about 1 tablespoon) and gently fold to coat the potatoes.