As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my work schedule is variable right now which is not an excuse for missing two weekends of posts but is part of the reason. I was in New York for one weekend and last weekend I was catching up on all the chores left undone by time away. I almost decided to skip this one as well since I’ve just received some news about a death in the family but I tend to find comfort in cooking. I’d planned a more elaborate dish but I can’t concentrate well enough for it. Instead I’m making a very simple and hopefully comforting dish. It’s a Banana Pudding recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book that was submitted by two different women. I used Hilda Rumpel‘s since it makes a smaller quantity. Mrs. H. Graeber‘s version is simply double of all the same ingredients.
Sometimes people are surprised to see recipes using bananas in an early 20th century Waterloo County cookbook but they were available here. I have a rather sad looking but still ripe banana to make this recipe. I have a feeling that it might be a bit similar to the ones in 1906.
I started heating 1 cup of 2% milk on the stove. I’ve visiting my father so have access to a gas stove. I find it heats quickly just like a pot on a wood fired cook stove thus the need for a double boiler. While the milk heated I mixed 4 tablespoons of white granulated sugar in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Then I added some of the heated milk to the bowl and stirred. My brother was watching and pointed out I had lumps and that so far it all looked disgusting. I stirred some more until the lumps were gone and then added it to the rest of the milk in the pot. It quickly thickened and yes it did look a bit glutanous. Adding the 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla did not help its appearance as it took on a bit of a grey tinge. I sliced one banana into a pretty glass bowl and then spooned the pudding on top. I decided to taste while it was still a bit warm.
Hilda Rumpel was 15 year old when she shared this recipe. Her mother and sister were also contributors along with some classmates at Berlin High School. Her father George owned one of the large factories in Berlin Ontario. Rumpel Felt made all sorts of felted products. Hilda was the youngest in her family and spent a year attending a girls boarding school Glyn Mawr in Toronto. In 1910 when she was 19 she participated in a special ceremony in Berlin. It was the launch of hydroelectricity power produced by Niagara Falls and the town of Berlin was the first place to receive this new public utility. Hilda carried the ceremonial button to the stage where various dignitaries were ready to “switch on” this new Power for the People. Hilda eventually married Stanley Reade and had four children.
Mrs. H. Graeber is likely the same Mrs. H. Graber who contributed other recipes, especially as there are no Graeber’s in the 1901 or 1911 census for Berlin. The spelling of German names is quite fluid during this era. So, Mrs. H. Graber is likely Elizabeth “Louisa” Hopp wife of Henry Graber. Their daughter Eleanora also shared recipes and was probably Hilda’s classmate at Berlin High School. However, their families were in different worlds. Henry Graber was a factory worker rather than an owner. The couple married in Preston (now part of Cambridge) before moving to Berlin. They had four children and remained in this community for the rest of their lives.
So what about the pudding? Well it tasted okay. In fact I sort of liked it. The vanilla flavouring was a good fit with the bananas and it is a very comforting pudding. It is the texture of the pudding that is less appealing. It is very thick. I think reducing the cornstarch just a little would be an improvement and allow it to be cooked a little longer. That would help eliminate the hint of cornstarch that lingers on the tongue.
This is an incredibly quick dessert and likely appealed to both families. The girls could make it easily as beginner cooks and the mothers could whip it up quickly and multiply it for greater numbers. I suspect the duplication was missed because the recipes appear on different pages (Rumpel on p. 146 and Graber on p. 145).
Give this recipe a try when you have a couple of bananas to use up but keep the modifications in mind. Let me know how it works for you!
Update: I served the leftover banana pudding for last night’s dessert and my father loved it and I liked it too.
1 cup milk, 4 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 banana sliced thinly; heat the milk in the top part of a double boiler, mix sugar and cornstarch thoroughly in a bowl, stir into them the heated milk and return to the heat, and stir until it thickens; add the flavoring, slice the banana thinly into a pudding dish, then pour the mixture over them and set away to cool. Serve cool with milk or cream.
NOTE — Level measurements are used.
Mrs. H. Graeber
Heat 2 cups of milk in the upper part of a double boiler, mix 1/2 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons cornstarch thoroughly in a bowl. Stir into them the heated milk and return to the heat and stir until it thickens; add a teaspoon vanilla, slice 2 bananas thinly into a pudding dish, then pour the mixture over them and set away to cool. Serve cold with milk or cream.