Photo by Caitlin Abrams
German potato salad
If you weren’t raised with a Grandma who pronounced w’s as v’s, you probably assume potato salad is cold, bland, and beige. That kind certainly has a place in our Minnesota culinary hearts (and our arteries). But the Germans, particularly those from southern Germany, have something entirely different to share at Oktoberfest parties and winter potlucks. It’s a classic side dish with a complex flavor profile and an über easy process—with not a drop of mayo to be found.
The Black Forest Inn’s German potato salad (based on owner Erich Christ’s memory of the potato salad of his youth) is made with onion, vinegar, and bacon—and not a whole lot else. It’s also served at room temperature. His daughter Gina says the simple salad is a very popular item on the Eat Street restaurant’s menu.
While this recipe is true to the traditional German style, it doesn’t have the sweetness that most people associate with the Rhineland version. “There is no sugar in it,” Gina says. “Very often people think of German potato salad as quite sweet. Ours isn't.” The type of ingredients you choose—specifically the potatoes and bacon—will affect that sweetness, she explains. For example, Russets tend to contain more sugar, and your particular brand of bacon may have maple flavoring added to it. Gina says in Germany, there is a fatty “salad potato” that’s traditionally used, but in the States, red or Yukon gold potatoes will be your best bet for texture and flavor balance.
A few more tricks of the potato salad trade from the Black Forest Inn kitchen:
- Marinate: Let the onion soak in the vinegar while you are waiting for the bacon to cook. “A lot of the bitterness of the onion can be eliminated by doing that,” Gina says.
- Stick to the recipe: “We carefully balanced the quantities in this recipe,” she explains. “So if you add more or less bacon, the salt amount may not work. And the vinegar and salt are similarly related.”
- Let it cool: Many German potato salads are served warm, and this one can be, but Gina says it’s best at room temperature.
For a real Oktoberfest feast, pair it up with bratwurst, kuchen, meatballs, and/or wiener schnitzel. And wear some pants with an elastic waistband.
Black Forest Inn's German Potato Salad
Serves 4 - 6
- 2 lbs. red or yellow potatoes, washed
- 1 c. diced onion, cooked
- 1 c. diced bacon
- 1/2 c. cider vinegar
- 1/2 c. hot chicken stock
- 1-1/2 t. salt
- 2 t. coarse-grained mustard (optional)
- 1 t. pepper
- Boil potatoes in skins until tender but not mushy.
- Soak the onion in the vinegar.
- While the potatoes are cooking, sauté bacon until cooked, then break up into small pieces.
- Add onion, vinegar, stock, salt, mustard, and pepper to bacon and fat and cook until onions are soft.
- Drain and slice potatoes.
- Add bacon mixture to sliced potatoes and combine thoroughly.
+ Pairings from Surdyk’s
We asked the experts at Surdyk’s for beverages to complement Black Forest Inn’s German Potato Salad. Here’s what they recommend:
Pairing 1: Ayinger Brauweiss is a classic German wheat beer. It has a light body but is full of flavor. You will taste banana, clove, and bubblegum flavors. The light and citrusy tones of this beer will balance out the acidity of the apple cider vinegar in the salad.
Pairing 2: Bauhaus Schwantoberfest is a refreshing, Bavarian-style fest beer that has a golden amber color and a medium body. It is malty and slightly sweet, which will pair well with bacon.