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Salt potatoes are a particular preparation of boiled young potatoes that originated in the central region of New York State. The potatoes themselves are simply small, young white potatoes; they are not salty by nature, but large amounts of salt are involved in the cooking process. A large amount of salt added to the boiling water enables the cooking temperature to rise and become hotter than it otherwise would, which results in more complete breakdown of starches and the signature smooth consistency of salt potatoes.
The city of Syracuse, New York, has a long history of salt production that is credited with the inception of the salt potato recipe. According to the story, workers who spent their days boiling marsh water to separate out the salt would bring a bag of potatoes for lunch and cook them in the distilling vats. The results were creamy potatoes with a salty coating on the skin. Salt potatoes proceeded to become a popular side dish across the region, easily replicated thanks to the availability of pre-packaged salt potato kits containing potatoes, a packet of salt, and boiling instructions, in grocery stores. Especially popular in the summer months, this side dish is no stranger to cookouts, picnics, and barbeques across central and upstate New York.
Salt potatoes are a fairly simple, straightforward dish to prepare. Traditionally, 4 lbs (1.8 kg) of potatoes requires 1 lb (0.45 kg) of salt to be added to the boiling water. The potatoes are scrubbed thoroughly since the skins are left on for both cooking and eating. After scrubbing, the small, young white potatoes are boiled in a large pot of the very salty water until they are tender; a knife should slip easily in and out of the potato when they are ready to eat.
The only condiment truly necessary for eating salt potatoes is butter, usually quite a lot of it. When spotted at barbeques or cook outs, salt potatoes are usually served warm and swimming in melted butter, with a big spoon or ladle with which to serve some over each portion of potatoes. Some recipes include a variety of chopped fresh herbs to brighten the flavor and downplay the richness of the salt and the butter. Almost any green herb will do, but popular choices are parsley, thyme, and chives. Leftover salt potatoes should usually be reheated because the butter will solidify, but they are easy to reheat in a microwave or on a stovetop or grill.