Mrs. Luepke is part of my childhood, but I don’t remember her. She was my parents’ neighbor when I was born. But she is a legend in my mind because she taught my mother how to make a wunderbar German potato salad.
I grew up hearing stories about Mrs. Luepke who kindly shared cooking tips with my mother, who in 1958 was a young bride with no cooking skills.
My mother made Mrs. Luepke’s German potato salad for special events, holidays, and picnics. When I was old enough, I helped. The kitchen filled with the smells of boiling red potatoes and sizzling bacon. Followed by the sweet, tangy smell of vinegar and sugar simmering on the stove in a bath of bacon fat and butter roux, which would be poured over the potatoes, bacon, and sliced green onions.
My favorite way to eat the German potato salad was when it was warm. I’d sneak a spoonful (or two) while I mixed the ingredients together.
For years the recipe had been lost. But this winter my mother discovered that her brother, who now lives a thousand miles away, had a copy of the recipe. My mother copied down the ingredients on a piece of small paper, and handed it to me when I visited her for Christmas last year. The paper contained no instructions, so when I made the potato salad, my mother explained the steps. Our mother-daughter-German-potato-salad project was the highlight of my Christmas. And the salad tasted as wonderful as I remembered it tasting when I was a child.
If you make the potato salad, think of Mrs. Luepke. During the years when her recipe was lost to my mother and me, I never found another German potato recipe that tasted as good as hers. In some small way, I’m glad to keep her memory alive.
- 3 to 5 pounds of red (new) potatoes (I used 4 pounds)
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced, including the greens
- 1 pound of bacon
- 1 stick of butter (I used no-salt)
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups very hot water, not boiling
- Boil the potatoes with their skins. Cook until a fork slides in and out easily, but they shouldn’t be falling apart. Let them cool while you start the other steps.
- Fry 1 pound of chopped bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan. Remove 3 to 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the rest of the bacon fat in the pan.
- Add 1 stick of butter to the pan. (I used no-salt butter.) Melt the butter on medium heat.
- When the butter is melted, add 4 tablespoons of flour, making a roux. Stir while it thickens.
- Add 2/3 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of sugar. Continue to gently whisk while it simmers until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens more.
- Next add 2 cups of very hot water–but not boiling. Simmer and gently whisk together. The mixture will thicken again, but it won’t be as thick as it was before. Turn off the burner.
- Return the bacon to the pan and add the green onions. Mix to combine. Cover the mixture to keep it warm.
- Peel then slice the potatoes into a big mixing bowl.
- Pour the warm bacon mixture over the potatoes. Gently combine.
- Eat some when it’s warm!
- Refrigerate leftovers. Thanks to microwaves, the potato salad can be rewarmed. But warm it, don’t zap the heck out of it!
- Maybe don’t tell your doctor you ate this.