I am about to share with you the single best recipe in my grandmother's box.
Well, except for the part where it's not actually in the box. It's on my hard drive. And I wouldn't have it at all if I hadn't recognized, maybe ten years ago, that one day, Gma wouldn't be around to make the stuff for me, and that I was therefore going to badger her until she wrote the recipe down. She never, ever used one, so I'm sure it was a pain to figure it all out and send it to me, but the beauty of Grandchild Immunity is that you can get away with making a pest of yourself until you get what you want, or in this case, need. I exaggerate not at all when I say that I would not want to live with the knowledge that I would never, ever have Grandma's kidney bean salad again. Fortunately, this unthinkably bleak future never came to pass.
I am pretty sure Gma got this recipe from a friend, but I'm not sure how it may have evolved over the years (after all, if you don't write it down, you're more likely to change things without realizing it). She made it three times each summer when I was a kid, since we would have it at the three big summer holiday cookouts. It always went into the same bowl (which I now have), so we were like Pavlov's dogs when we'd see it in the fridge, because that bowl came out for nothing else. Everyone in the cookout gang loved it. I probably would have lived on it for a week if you'd have let me. Later on, she would bribe me with it if she wanted me to come visit, or I would whine and wheedle until she gave in and concocted it for me. (People tend to look at the list of ingredients for this recipe and, at the most polite, raise an eyebrow. Linda couldn't figure out what the heck we were going to end up with when we made it the first time, but agreed that it all adds up to a really good bean salad when put together, so I promise I'm not putting you on! It's really that good!)
If I'm being completely honest, it's the first recipe I wanted to post here, but January just didn't seem the right time. It's a summer thing. And now that summer is unofficially over, I thought I should get it in just under the wire. Gma always made the dressing strictly by taste, but since you guys don't necessarily know what it tastes like, that plan doesn't work, so Linda (who is a scientist and thus the perfect assistant for this sort of project) came over to help record the amounts I threw into a cocktail shaker (probably not the optimum equipment for the task, but Gma always shook it in a jar and that was the best I could do) until we got it right. It...was an education. In fluid dynamics as much as measuring ingredients.
The only thing that makes this recipe difficult is that it calls for Heinz Genuine Dill pickles. (It's possible that other folks make these, but if so, I don't know who.) These are not the kosher pickles you generally find in the grocery store these days (the ones that are bright green). Koshers are cured in garlic; genuine dills are salt-cured. There is a significant difference in flavor. Alas, we had to order the right pickles online since, for reasons unknown to man or God, it's almost impossible to find them in a grocery store anymore. Amazon or Crossroads Market can help you out if you want to give this recipe a try and can't find them locally.
Without any further ado: Grandma's kidney bean salad.
1 40.5 oz can kidney beans
4 stems celery
5 hardboiled eggs
¾ small onion
5 genuine dill pickles
3 firm, small/medium tomatoes
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons pickle brine
1 tablespoon plus 2½ teaspoons French dressing
Drain the beans in a colander; while draining, chop the onions, slice the celery thin (slice in half lengthwise first), dice pickles. Put onions, celery, pickles, and beans in a large bowl. Slice eggs into quarters; Slice tomatoes into eight wedges each and add to the bowl.
Mix the mayonnaise, pickle brine, and French dressing. Shaking it in a jar mixes it very evenly. (The dressing should not taste overwhelmingly of any of the three ingredients, so the taste can be adjusted, but the French dressing is quite strong, so if you add more, do so very gradually.)
Pour dressing over other ingredients. Carefully stir with wooden spoon (so you do not crush the beans or the eggs). It helps to let it sit for an hour or two before serving so the flavors can mingle.
I'm not sure exactly how many it serves. 8, at least.