Potato Cakes

David Ramey

My aunt shared with me the following:

Mama used a big, black iron skillet most of the time to fry the potato cakes and chicken.  When we had lard from a hog-killing, she would use it along with homemade butter for frying.  She would use leftover mashed potatoes and would add a beaten egg (1 or 2, depending on the amount of mashed potatoes), some flour, salt, and pepper.  Sometimes she would sauté some onion and add that into the mixture.  She would add a little more milk (pure, straight from the cow, unpasteurized) if the consistency was too thick, or add a little more flour if it was too soft.  Mama could tell by feel if it was how she wanted it.  She would drop a potato crumb into the hot lard/butter to see if it was hot enough to suit her and would then add the potato cakes.  She would let them fry for a few minutes, check them over, and let them finish frying.  They would be crispy-crunchy on the outside and just right on the inside.

When we had leftover mashed potatoes, we knew we would have potato cakes the next day.

I remember your Dad, Aunt Martha, Aunt Carol, and myself, churning lots of cream into butter.  I remember Mama doing it a whole lot more, and I loved to watch her skim the thick, golden cream off the milk and put it into another container to save to make butter.  We had a churn that had a hand dasher (people-powered and not electric), and it took awhile for the cream to turn into butter.  We couldn’t stop, no matter how tired our arms got, until it was ready and Mama could tell by look and feel when it was ready.  She had a rectangular wooden mold that she would pack the butter into, and then the bottom had a handle on it to push the block of butter out, and we would wrap the butter in paper.  It was wonderful.

3 cups mashed potatoes

¼ cup flour

½ cup milk

1 to 2 eggs

2/3 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2/3 cup lard

¼ cup butter

Optional:  sautéed onions

Heat a large iron skillet.  In a separate bowl, mix mashed potatoes, flour (flour was only used if mashed potatoes were too runny to form the cakes), milk, eggs, salt, and pepper briskly (sautéed onions can be added if desired).  Shape the mixture into small round cakes, about the size of your palm.  Add lard and butter to the heated skillet and stir until thoroughly melted.  Place the cakes in the skillet and begin frying.  Fry over medium heat until the outside is crisp and golden brown.