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Mashed potatoes are the perfect comfort food dish and our entire family insists that my grandmother make them whenever we have a big dinner.
The reason these are “MeMe’s Mashed Potatoes” is because that is what all of the great grandkids (my children and numerous nephews) call my Grandmother and she makes amazing mashed potatoes (y’all know that nobody cooks like your Grandmother!). I have actually seen my children pull back their plate and ask “Are those MeMe’s mashed potatoes?” as if afraid we might let someone else make her sacred dish (or use another recipe when making them!). When confirmed that they are, in fact, MeMe’s potatoes, they will hold their plate back out and wait on a HUGE dollop!
This post is filled with all sorts of potato and milk information (along with anti-bacterial and roly poly tangents) so get comfy!
To make them like my grandmother does, you’ll need:
Salt, Potatoes, Evaporated Milk, and 1/2 cup of Margarine, and a little Pepper.
You can use regular milk in these but the difference in MeMe’s mashed potatoes is definitely the evaporated milk, which has a richer flavor. I’ll get into that a bit more later on in this post.
Most old recipes which call for evaporated milk will have it simply listed as “Pet milk” which was (and is) a very popular brand of evaporated milk. My grandmother still calls it “Pet Milk”, but you know I only purchase the name brand under duress :). I have never found a generic that didn’t taste exactly the same to me as the name brand when it comes to evaporated milk.
Although evaporated milk made its first debut in Illinois, it took off like wild fire in the south as soon as Southerners discovered it. Due to our overwhelmingly hot climate, milk spoilage was a particular problem in this area of the country and having a shelf stable milk that would keep even in the summertime was almost too good to be true.
Wash, peel, and slice potatoes.
Okay, so I actually don’t wash my potatoes but y’all know I like to walk on the wild side. I peel ‘em and cut ‘em and if they look dirty, give ‘em a little rinse in the bowl (which I did just before taking this photo). I mean, we are about to boil them which is basically sterilizing so blah! on washing them ahead of time. Lets just live dangerously.
Another thing I don’t do is use antibacterial hand soap. I think we’ve gone a bit overboard with the antibacterial mess anyway (have you noticed how we tend to go overboard with every new health trend that crops up?).
Back in my day, kids played in dirt all day long and washed with plain old Ivory or Lifebuoy soap just before dinner – and only then if Mama made them. There is no telling how much dirt I had ingested by the time I got old enough to pay attention to hygiene and quit collecting worms and roly polys in butter bowls.
Although I do have my kids wash their hands on a regular basis (and I am very particular about hand washing whenever food preparation is involved) I think kids need a fighting chance of developing an immune system. Plain old soap along with rubbing your hands together under clean water do me just fine. Besides, I don’t want one of my grandchildren dropping dead one day from accidentally inhaling a dust particle.
Put a pot of water on the stove and turn it on medium so it can be getting good and hot.
Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water.
Add potatoes and bring water to a boil.
You want your water to be gently boiling the entire time the potatoes are cooking. How long you cook them here is key. My grandmother uses a pressure cooker to make her deliciously creamy mashed potatoes. In absense of a pressure cooker, I use the old fashioned method of cooking them til they cry uncle – ’bout an hour or so.
Yes, I seriously did say an hour. I’m just shocking y’all left and right today, aren’t I?
After they are done cooking, drain them and put in your 1/2 cup of margarine.
I know it may seem like a lot of margarine but honestly, can we ever have too much?
You can use real butter if you’re not as cheap as me.
Add your entire can of evaporated milk.
I always leave a drop or two in there and as I am walking to throw the can away it somehow manages to work its way to my lips as those few drops just toss right back! I can’t help it. I dearly love the taste of evaporated milk.
Note: Don’t confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – has had water removed and sugar added. Yielding a very thick and rich product (if my blood sugar would allow it, I’d happily live on sweetened condensed milk – that stuff is AWESOME).
- Evaporated Milk – has had water removed but no sugar added. However, the natural sugars which occur in milk are more concentrated and this produces a richer flavor (which one reason why I really like in my coffee!) You can actually reconstitute evaporated milk with equal parts of water to have the equivalent of fresh milk.
Although both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk are more brown in color than regular milk due to the heat in the pasteurization process causing a slight caramelizing to the natural sugars (this change in color is known as the Maillard effect – in case y’all wanted to know – we spent a good week or so just studying canned milk in college). This effect is another reason why I love the taste of evaporated milk better than regular milk in my coffee!
Oh, by the way, did you know that evaporated milk also makes MUCH better macaroni and cheese, too? My family (who I have mentioned several times before must have been dropped on their heads as infants) loves boxed mac and cheese and I always add a little richness to it by using evaporated milk. Pretty much anytime you are making a recipe that calls for milk, substituting evaporated milk will make it just a little bit richer and like most things in life, richer = better. ~grins~
Where was I?
Add another teaspoon or so of salt. This is to taste. I prefer to under season my food if I am going to be serving it to company, because this allows them to season it to their taste rather than have to eat it according to how I prefer it. I know many people who prefer very little to no salt and many more who prefer twice as much salt as I do!
I also add about 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. There is such a thing as white pepper which will not leave dark specks in your mashed potatoes, if those bother you. I have never actually seen white pepper but I remember one of my college professors telling us about it just for mashed potatoes.
We actually spent another week studying potatoes ….I used to be able to tell you all sorts of things about potatoes. Now I can just tell you that I really like them mashed like this :).
Well lookie there! I took a picture of me putting my pepper in! Didn’t realize that…
Now just use your hand mixer and beat the living mess out of everything until it is smooth and creamy.
I like to do this with my stand mixer and let it run a few minutes. If you are feeling lazy or just want mashed potatoes with a more “country” feel, you can just use a potato masher and do it by hand. A potato masher is this neat little device which I have two of and use for pretty much everything except mashing potatoes…
This is one of my Potato Mashers
but I tend to use it for meatloaf mixing more often than not…
I can’t think of what on earth I do with this one off the top of my head but I swear I am always using it for one thing or another!
OH, I do use this one a lot for my peanut butter cookies :). Dip it in sugar and just press down lightly to get that criss cross effect without using a fork and doing it the traditional way. Hey, it cuts out one more step!
I’m going to get Mama to make you her fried potato cakes next week so you can see how to make a new dish out of leftover mashed potatoes!
For my mother’s cheese topped mashed potatoes (which I thought were so fancy when I was a little girl!) , click here.