These days our family equates real mashed potatoes with special occasions like holidays or big family gatherings. But it wasn’t always so. Let me take you back to our life many years ago, before I give you our recipe for homemade mashed potatoes.
We lived in a tiny church parsonage in a small farming community of less than 1,000 residents. Oh, how we loved that town. We had seven children when we moved there, and our eighth and ninth were born before we left. When I say the house was tiny I mean that the living room was so small, we couldn’t watch TV without touching each other–and that included kids lying on the floor. We had a 13″ TV in a miniature armoire that also held homeschool books and diapers.
By the time milk, diapers, toilet paper and other family needs were bought weekly, there was usually $40-$60 left for food. True story: I remember having guests or hosting a party, knowing that the extra food came out of our grocery money. I’ll admit that I wasn’t always gracious or noble about it. But I promise you that we never went hungry. God always provided.
You’re probably wondering how in the world we survived on that food budget. Here was a big key: generous farmers in our church kept our freezer stocked with good beef of all types. Nearly every Sunday we had roast, mashed potatoes and gravy. Potatoes were cheap and gravy could be made from the meat drippings. We had all the round steak, ground beef, brisket, and other cuts we could eat. It was a wonderful encouragement during that season of our lives.
Nearly every Sunday I made ten pounds of mashed potatoes. At the time I used russet potatoes but now we use red potatoes. Red potatoes don’t have to be peeled, and they don’t boil away into starch like russets. Here’s how we make absolutely delicious homemade mashed potatoes (I’ll give you the 5-pound recipe, just double or triple if you have a ton of people to feed):
Homemade Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds of red potatoes
1 stick of butter
salt and pepper
Wash the potatoes and cut off bad spots. Cut into 2-4 pieces per potato, depending on potato size. Place in a large stovetop pan like a dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered (or covered, but watch for boiling over). Test potatoes for doneness with a fork–the potatoes should be tender and the fork should go in with no resistance. Not-quite-done potatoes will make for lumpy mashed potatoes. When they are done, CAREFULLY pour the hot liquid and potatoes into a strainer in the sink. Then dump the potatoes into a large heatproof bowl and top with a stick of butter.
Using a hand potato masher, mush up the potatoes and butter. You don’t want any whole potatoes left in the bowl but you don’t have to get crazy, especially if the potatoes are nice and soft. Have the milk, salt and pepper close at hand. Start mixing the potatoes and butter with a hand mixer (or bowl mixer if you have one). If you’re coordinated enough, add milk as you mix. If not, feel free to turn off the mixer to add milk.
Mix, add milk, mix, add milk. At some point, stop and add salt and pepper. Believe it or not, THIS is a key in getting good-tasting mashed potatoes. If there’s not enough salt OR pepper, the potatoes taste flat and bland. This is an art! Start slow, but it takes a good amount of salt and pepper to get to perfection. Mix the mashed potatoes to desired consistency, somewhere between fluffy and creamy, depending on your preference. You don’t have to go on and on, it doesn’t take that long.
If the mashed potatoes will be served later and will be sitting in a crock pot on warm, add more milk than if you’ll serve immediately. If they’re somewhat soupy they’ll be just right by the time you serve them. Just be careful: if they get too thin there’s not much you can do to fix the situation aside from adding more potatoes. We’re trying to avoid mashed potatoes with the consistency of wallpaper paste.
There you have it, our time-tested, family-approved, guest-impressing recipe for homemade mashed potatoes. I hope these mashed potatoes grace your holiday (or weekday) table with ease!