Hundred-Year-Old Potato Salad Recipe

Potato Salad

Over the next couple weeks I have several picnics on my calendar. Potato Salad is the quintessential picnic food, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old Potato Salad recipe.

Potato Salad Recipe
Source: Lycoming Valley Cook Book, compiled by the Ladies of Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run, PA (1907)

At first I wasn’t quite sure about the recipe. It didn’t contain the usual Potato Salad ingredients like celery and mayonnaise, but rather was a vinaigrette dressing. Yet, the recipe was so easy that I decided to give it a try.

The Potato Salad was lovely, and the vinaigrette dressing with a hint of pepper was just right. It added a delightful flavor to the potatoes, but didn’t overwhelm them.  This recipe is a keeper.

The old recipe made a lot of dressing relative to the potatoes, so I divided it by three when I revised it. Here’s the updated recipe for modern cooks:

Potato Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 large potatoes (approximately 3 cups diced)

3/4 cup  onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon black pepper

parsley sprigs for garnish, optional

Peel and dice potatoes into 3/4 inch chunks. Put into a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Chill in refrigerator for several hours, then add onions.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the potatoes and onions. Gently toss to coat the potatoes with the dressing. Put in serving bowl; and, if desired, garnish with parsley sprigs.

81 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Potato Salad Recipe

  1. I was also surprised when I read this! Nothing at all like my mom’s with her mayo, mustard, hard boiled eggs and just a tiny bit of pickle relish and sugar.

    1. Commercially-made mayonnaise wasn’t yet available a hundred year ago. Old cookbooks did contain recipes for homemade mayonnaise, but I think that it was a little tricky to make – so back then it wasn’t used very often in other recipes.

    1. Maybe – it would have been easy for them to make a typo when preparing this church cookbook. 9 tablespoons of oil and 3 potatoes (even if very large potatoes were used) makes no sense. The potatoes would have been just swimming in oil.

    1. I found it under Support/Short Codes. It took me a long time digging around. I wonder how long they have had this option. I just notice this on a few other blogs this month. Well I better get started up grading again. LOL…I only have 150 or so to do. I am always flying by the seat of my pants with this blog.


      1. It sounds like you found the directions for formatting recipes, but in case other readers want to see them here’s the link to the Support directions:

        A year or two ago a reader wrote a comment and suggested that I use the WordPress formatting. I decided to try it – and have been using it ever since.

        1. It took me a couple times to get the format right. I think your idea to pass it on to other users is a good one. I have a recipe for Old Dutch Salad Dressing that I spent time creating a copy cat recipe of the bottle dressing 4 years ago. I had been having trouble finding it. So the last bottle I had I used to taste with until I got it right. I posted the recipe then and now it has all kinds of traffic because the company went out of business. Google has picked up on it this summer. People come to check out the recipe but also look around. That is why I wanted to be able to make a print out option. So I do thank you for waking me up to look for this option.

          1. Your comment intrigued me, so I went to your site and found the recipe. The Old Dutch Salad Dressing sounds wonderful. I love sweet/sour dressings.

    1. Yes, there definitely are some similarities -though one is hot and the other cold. Your comment brings back wonderful memories of eating French Fries with vinegar when I was a child. They were the best French fries I’ve ever had.

  2. I went to see the film “Florence Foster Jenkins” yesterday, and at one point in the film, a bathtub filled with potato salad showed up. This recipe would be perfect if you were having to make potato salad in those quantities!

    1. Whew- a bathtub full of potato salad is A LOT of potato salad. I may have to go see this movie. Did you like it? I generally like Meryl Streep movies.

      1. It was a completely wonderful movie. It was kind toward the unfortunate songstress, who truly was a ghastly singer, and it was humorous throughout. They’ve had to add more showings here, it’s been so popular — and for good reason.

    1. It was new (or perhaps old) to me. 🙂 I’ve also occasionally had problems with the comments posting before I intended. Sometimes I think that I inadvertently hit the “post comment” button too soon and other times it seems like it just happens when I don’t think that I did anything.

  3. What an interesting recipe. It’s pretty neat the difference in the ingredients from what I’m familiar with. It sounds like it was pleasant tasting and a complete success. 🙂
    My Monday post is about my making your ‘Poached egg in a tomato’ recipe. If you get a few spare moments I hope you’ll drop by and take a gander at it. 🙂

    1. Thanks for letting me know that you made the Poached Egg in a Tomato Recipe. It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed it. I really like how you included photos of the entire process.

  4. That’s pretty much our family recipe for potato salad, though in our case we substitute chives for raw onion which we find just too harsh in flavour. We often put in a dollop of grainy mustard too. Both are good. I think I’ll make some today!

    1. The chives sound like a wonderful substitute for onions. I have some chives in my garden, and am always looking for good ways to use them – so I may have to give this a try. 🙂

    1. Like you, I don’t remember potato salad being made this way when I was a child growing up in central Pennsylvania – though when I made this recipe, there was something about it that brought back wonderful, but very vague, food memories.

  5. If you used 2/3 the original recipe with all that oil you could have made homefries with it. Although the 2 tsp vinegar might make it taste a lot different.

    1. I can’t figure out why the recipe called for so much oil – and tend to think that there was a typo. The flavor of the dressing would definitely change if the ratio of oil to vinegar was changed.

  6. They sure knew how to eat back then! I have a home front story coming up soon on how our parents and grandparent ate – it made me chuckle! I think you’ll enjoy it too.

    1. Celery seed would be a wonderful addition to this recipe. As I’m sure you know, making recipes using proportions was very common a hundred year ago. It was then easy to adjust the amount made depending upon the size of the group that would be eating the food.

  7. Lovely! I think of it as a German potato salad, made with oil and vinegar rather than mayo. But I might have that wrong. I’m in PA Dutch country! (Not that Pennsylvania Dutch people shy away from mayo.) Anyway, it looks simple and delicious!

    1. The church that published the cookbook that contained this recipe was located in Lycoming County, and the author of the Potato Salad recipe lived in neighboring Clinton County. These counties are a little northwest of what I using think of as PA Dutch country, but there still would have been a strong German influence.

          1. It’s great, isn’t it? My daughter goes to Bucknell now. We are often there! It has seen a nice growth of good restaurants and little shops in recent years!

    1. You’re absolutely right. When I was young I didn’t care much for black pepper – now that I’m enjoying old recipes I’m rediscovering black pepper, and finding that it really adds a nice flavor to many dishes.

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