New Hampshire: First in the Nation Potato

Photograph courtesy of the UC Riverside California Museum of Photography, "Measuring Potatoes in Field. Reeds Ferry, N.H., Gifford M. Mast, Keystone-Mast Collection, date unknown

Photograph courtesy of the UC Riverside California Museum of Photography, “Harvesting  Potatoes in Field. Reeds Ferry, N.H., Gifford M. Mast, Keystone-Mast Collection, date unknown

Even the United States Potato Board agrees that Londonderry New Hampshire played a leading role in the growth of the potato as a foodstuff in the American colonies.  Though not the first location on this continent where it became known (Bermuda and Jamestown were first), “the first permanent potato patches in North America were established in 1719, most likely near Londonderry (Derry), NH, by Scots-Irish immigrants.  From there, the crop spread across the country.

Joe Satran at The Huffington Post states that the potato is the “Mariah Carey of vegetables,” and wrote an article entitled “The 18 Best Ways To Cook Potatoes In Order.”  He goes into great detail, with photographs that etched the delicious frits into my brain.  Instead of trying to repeat his contemporary process, I will share with you some recipes that used to be popular back in the day of our great-grandmothers. The following were published in New Hampshire newspapers between 1851 and 1887.

POTATOES BAKED IN MILK. Take as many potatoes as you are in the habit of preparing for a dinner for your family, pare and slice as thin as possible–so thin that you can almost see through the slices. Let them stand covered with cold water for a short time. Then put them into a porcelain or tin baking disk, sprinkling with salt, and pepper as the dish is filled, also pinching little pieces of butter here and there. When the dish is filled, cover with milk heated while preparing the potatoes, or milk and water, if milk is not plentiful. Put into the oven and bake until the potatoes are ready to fall to pieces; a dish holding two quarts will cook in one and a half hours in a good oven. This is a most delicious way to cook potatoes, and always a favorite with children. — Thursday, June 30, 1887, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), page 2

Photograph courtesy of the UC Riverside California Museum of Photography, "Measuring Potatoes in Field. Reeds Ferry, N.H., Gifford M. Mast, Keystone-Mast Collection, date unknown

Photograph courtesy of the UC Riverside California Museum of Photography, “Measuring Potatoes in Field. Reeds Ferry, N.H., Gifford M. Mast, Keystone-Mast Collection, date unknown

POTATO MOULD. Is an exceedingly pretty dish, and very easily made. Boil or steam the potatoes in the usual way, then mash them thoroughly with a little milk, butter, pepper and salt; press them firmly into a pretty mould which has been greased, then turn them out on a dish, and place them either in the over, or before a hot fire, for a few minutes, to get prettily browned. This is a very dainty way of serving potatoes, and makes a nice change from the ordinary mashed potatoes. — Thursday, November 11, 1886, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), page

POTATO CROQUETS. Two cups of cold mashed potatoes, two beaten eggs, a tablespoon of melted butter, salt, and pepper. Mix all together and form into oblong rolls. Dip into beaten egg and roll in cracker dust. Fry in drippings, or lard and butter. — Thursday, November 17, 1881, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), page 1

POTATO PUFF. Dress three cupfuls of well-boiled and mashed potatoes with salt, butter and cream, making them quite moist with cream. Beat well with an egg whisk, and when quite light and smooth, add three eggs well beaten separately. Beat again thoroughly, pile it high in a dish, and color it in a quick oven. — December 13, 1883, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), page 2

POTATO JELLY.–Peel the potatoes, and grate them to a find pulp; throw this into a jug of water, and stir it well, then into a fine sieve and collect that which passes through into a basin; let it stand and in a few minutes the starchy matter will be deposited, from which the water may be poured off. Now stir up the starch from the bottom of the basin, and add boiling water (be certain that it quite boils,) and it will pass into a beautiful jelly, which has only to be flavored with sugar, nutmeg, and wine, to fit it for table. — Tuesday, December 30, 1851, New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth NH), Vol XCVIII, Issue 1, page 4

In 2013 the white potato was designated New Hampshire’s official state vegetable. This resulted from the work of Derry Village Elementary School children (and their teacher) to promote the white potato (Solanum tuberosum) after learning that an Irish immigrant brought a sack of seed potatoes to the area in 1719.

*****ADDITIONAL READING*****

Smithsonian: How the Potato Changed the World

 National Potato Day (August 19th)

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3 Responses to New Hampshire: First in the Nation Potato

  1. Enjoyed the info and recipes – may give a few a try. I bet the potatoes in milk was what we make for potato soup! My husbands Irish uncle was from Maine and we loved when he went for a visit to the family farm and filled his truck with several 50lb bags of potatoes to share with us all. I remember them as making the best baked potatoes!!! Makes me want to go to Maine just thinking of that memory! Thanks for reminding me!!
    Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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