Syracuse salt potatoes are a classic dish associated with Central New York, particularly Syracuse. These potatoes have a rich history dating back to the mid-1800s when Irish salt miners started cooking potatoes in brine, utilizing the region’s booming salt industry. Over time, they gained popularity and became a staple food at local fairs and in pubs and bars across the state.
The History Behind Syracuse Salt Potatoes:
Syracuse, often referred to as the “Salt City,” was part of Onondaga County, known for its salt industry. The process of obtaining salt from brine involved boiling the brine, and at some point, salt miners began cooking potatoes in this brine while on the job. The dish’s popularity spread beyond the mines, thanks to Arthur and James Keefe, Irish brothers who opened a tavern exclusively serving salt potatoes. The dish quickly gained traction and became widely enjoyed.
Making Syracuse Salt Potatoes:
Traditionally, Syracuse salt potatoes are boiled in heavily salted water, creating a salt crust that contributes to their unique flavor. Here’s how you can make them from scratch:
- Baby white potatoes (about 4 pounds)
- Salt (about 1 pound)
- Melted butter
- Optional: black pepper, smoked paprika, ghee, aioli, Greek yogurt, sour cream, parsley, chives
- Wash and scrub the baby potatoes to remove dirt.
- In a pot, dissolve about 1 pound of salt in water and bring it to a boil.
- Add the washed potatoes to the boiling saltwater and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.
- Drain the water and leave the potatoes in the pot to allow the salt to form a crispy crust.
- Transfer the potatoes to a bowl or plate and top with melted butter.
- Add a pinch of black pepper or smoked paprika if desired.
- Serve the potatoes warm with your choice of accompaniments, such as garlic-ginger chicken wings, steak, ribs, or grilled fish.
- Customize by using ghee, aioli, Greek yogurt, or sour cream instead of butter, and garnish with parsley or chives for extra flavor.
- Keep the peel on the potatoes while cooking to prevent them from becoming overly salty.
- Use baby white potatoes for authentic results.
- Feel free to experiment with different toppings and seasonings to suit your taste.
- Leftover salt potatoes can be used in salads, breakfast hash, or shepherd’s pie.
Syracuse salt potatoes are a testament to the region’s history and culinary innovation. With their unique cooking method and flavorful outcome, they’re a must-try dish for anyone interested in experiencing Central New York’s culinary heritage.