Banana Pudding

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 as Miss Ontario at the switching on of hydroelectricity at Berlin Ontario October 11, 1910

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.

Hilda Rumpel

     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.



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Bread is the very first chapter in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. And the first recipe in that chapter is YEAST. No one claims the recipe but it says Selected under it so likely the cookbook committee selected the recipe from some printed source. Back in 2012 I kept looking at this recipe but avoided it for a couple of reasons. First it wasn’t terribly exciting and couldn’t really be tasted once completed. It also required “a cup of good yeast”. Would regular dry granulated yeast be good enough or should I try something a bit more authentic like fresh yeast?

Today I decided to give this recipe a try. I have some fresh compressed yeast also known as cake yeast in my freezer. I’m able to get a block of it from a local European deli and it freezes well. I used to be able to buy Fleischman’s compressed yeast at grocery stores but they haven’t stocked it in years.

My first step was to cut a piece of yeast from my frozen block that was approximately the size of the old commercial yeast cakes. It was about a tablespoon. This was my best guess as to the quantity I would need for this recipe. I put the frozen cube of yeast in a cup of lukewarm water to thaw and hopefully begin to “work” a bit while I continued with the rest of the recipe.

Next it was time to prepare the “good sized” potatoes. I decided at this point to cut the recipe in half. I peeled two Russet potatoes and put them in cold water to soak for thirty minutes. One hundred years ago there were many varieties of potatoes but most are not available any more. Russets are one type of potato that still appears in grocery stores. I put two cups of hot water in a saucepan and started grating the potatoes into it. I ended up not using all of my second potato as they were very large. I got the water boiling and then let everything simmer for five minutes. I regularly stirred the increasingly gloopy stuff until the time was up. I added a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt and then left it to cool a bit. Once it was luke warm I added the full cup of liquid yeast since it seemed to need the liquid. I put the glazed pottery bowl on top of my slightly warm stove, covered the bowl with a cloth, and left it to sit for several hours. It was about two hours later that I remembered I needed to give it a stir. It had actually developed a bit of “life” and had risen slightly. Stirring brought it down again and I left it alone for another couple of hours. It was time to bottle my yeast.

Interior of St. John’s Lutheran Church in New York City.

It is at this point that normally I’d be talking about the taste of the end result, and about the recipe contributor — but this recipe doesn’t really suit either of these options. However, even after I finished cooking everyday from this cook book, I continued to research the history of this cookbook. One of the driving forces behind it appears to be a woman named Meda Oberlander. She lived in this community for a few short years but she and her family had a big impact. She was born in Syracuse NY along with all her brothers and sisters. The family lived in Berlin Ontario for a few years when her father was a minister here. Her sister Matilda married a local man and stayed when everyone else went back to Syracuse. Eventually her brother became the minister of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church here. He was single and so was Meda so she also came back and lived with him. I imagine she helped him with church duties and keeping house. When he was hired to minister to a church in New York City he left Berlin Ontario and Meda went with him.

Exterior of St. John’s Lutheran Church in New York City.

The building is still standing and remains a Lutheran church — St. Johns on Christopher Street in New York. Last spring I went to see it and the current minister gave me a tour.

I could not bring myself to taste my yeast but I will use it in something later this week. It doesn’t look like any yeast mixture I’ve made or seen. The potatoes give it a bit of a grey hue and it is very gelatinous. I do wonder if it will be an effective yeast. Time will tell. I’ll keep it bottled up in a cool place (not difficult at this time of year in my old house).

Pare 4 good sized potatoes and let them lie in cold water 30 minutes; put 1 quart of water in sauce pan; grate potatoes quickly and stir them into the boiling water; stir over fire five minutes, then take from fire; add 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablepoons salt; turn into stone jar or bowl and let stand until luke warm, then add 1 cup good yeast; cover and ferment 3 or 4 hours, stir it down every time it comes to top of vessel; then put into jar or big bottle, so that it may be covered tightly and stand in a place where it will keep very cold, but not freeze. Will keep 2 weeks. Save a cup of the yeast for the next time.

Whole wheat and entire wheat flour is one and the same thing, and is put upon the market under both names as well as under special brands, it should closely resemble ordinary bread flour in texture and feeling — a little rubbed between the fingers should feel very granular, and when compressed in the palm will not retain the imprint of the fingers. In color it should be from a deep cream to pale coffee tint, the exact shade varying according to the mill in which it was prepared. When wet it is many shades darker.

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Filled “Kartoffel” or Potato Dumplings

I’ve been trying to cook from The Berlin Cook Book each weekend but my schedule is a bit topsy turvey for the next few weeks. I did have Saturday off but helped all day cooking at a Community Kitchen. Then I worked Sunday. But now I have time to try something a little different from this local cookbook from 1906. Since I have some potatoes in need of cooking, I’m going to make a recipe titled Filled “Kartoffel” or Potato Dumplings. The recipe comes from Mrs. Riener and appears in the Vegetable section.

The first challenge with this recipe is determining the number of potatoes needed. The recipe doesn’t give a quantity except for one egg. I decided to look for a comparable recipe via the internet. Fruit filled potato dumpling recipes are featured in various European countries. A very similar recipe is here and calls for 4 or 5 potatoes. I don’t have that many so I’ll need to reduce the amount of egg.

I boiled two large potatoes in their skin and once cooked I quickly removed the skins and mashed the potatoes. I beat an egg and took out half to use in the recipe. Once the egg was mixed in, I started adding flour until I had a dough I could roll out. I roughly cut out circles of dough and put a cherry inside. I pinched it closed and popped the dumplings into boiling water. Since I was using maraschino cherries my dumplings were small so I cooked them for about 2 or 3 minutes. I pulled them out and sprinkled with sugar. I didn’t have any bread crumbs so that part of the recipe is missing. It was time to taste.

I generally assume that the recipe contributors are from Berlin unless another community is listed after their name in the cook book. There is one family named Reiner listed in Berlin Ontario in the 1906 Canadian census but none called Riener. This is a surname often mis-written in the census or in the cookbook. I’m assuming that Mrs. Riener is Maria Nowak wife of Mathias Riener since their daughter and granddaughter also contributed recipes to this cookbook. Maria was born in 1843 in Hungary. Her birthplace is sometimes given as Austria but this is a reflection of world events including the rise of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 1860s. Her husband Mathias was born in Temesvar in Hungary. The couple married in Hungary and had their first four children (Caroline – 1861, Maria – 1864, John – 1866 & Charles – 1872). It is possible they moved to Vienna in Austria as one of the daughters lists it as her birthplace. Since the next child Edward is born in 1875 in Waterloo County in Ontario the family must have moved here between 1872 and 1875. Daughters Gisela and Elvira were born here in 1878 and 1880.

The family were followers of the New Jerusalem religion also known as Swedenborgian. You can find out more about this congregation here:  Mathias is listed in an 1893 local directory as a merchant tailor along with his two sons. They had their business at 38 Frederick street and the family lived next door at number 40. You’ll find the Kitchener war memorial in this spot today. I was surprised to discover the family mentioned in W.V. Uttley’s book A History of Kitchener. The author says that the family were living in New York City when Mathias met Emil Vogelsang who convinced them to move to Berlin Ontario where he lived. They decided to make the move since there was a Swedenborgian congregation in Berlin. Uttley says they were a musical family and one daughter often sang in light operas.

My expectations for this recipe were low. I’m not a fan of doughy dumplings but these were quite tasty. There was still a bit of potato taste but the fruit was the main flavour. I was reminded of fruit filled perogies/piroshis. I bought a package of frozen perogies at my local European grocery and discovered I’d bought fruit filled instead of cheese and potato. I wasn’t a fan since there was so much dough but since the dough was thin and the dumpling small it was much lighter tasting. I think I’ll try it again with different fruits and with the bread crumbs. This is clearly not a vegetable dish. It is a dessert.

While searching for similar recipes to help me with proportions, I found that fruit filled potato dumplings were typically Slovenian, Czech or Polish. In 1906 Maria Nowak Riener was sharing a recipe with this Canadian community that likely originated with her Hungarian roots.

Mrs. Riener

Take large mealy potatoes and boil with jackets on till well done, then peel quickly and mash finely, salt to taste, add 1 egg and enough flour to roll out, then cut in squares about 3 inches, now place a small plum or half a each or slice of apple on each square, then fold in well; when all is used up put in boiling water and cook till fruit is done, then put on large platter and cover with cracker crumbs browned with butter lots of it, serve with sugar and cinnamon. Must be served as soon as cooked.

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Creamed Oysters

Back in 2012 when I cooked every day from The Berlin Cook Book (1906), there were several chapters of recipes that I avoided. I don’t like seafood so I rarely cooked from the Fish and Oysters section. This weekend I am visiting with my father and brother who like fish so it is time to tackle one of the recipes in this neglected section. This chapter has fifteen recipes for oysters and I’ve only tackled two of them so I decided to pick one — if I could find the necessary supplies.

The small town grocery store did not have any fresh oysters but had cans of Cloverleaf Pacific Oysters in water. I decided to use them to make the Creamed Oysters recipe submitted by Mrs. J. Decker.

This ad appeared in the Canadian Grocer magazine in 1906.

Fresh oysters were available in 1906 in Berlin grocery stores. Even the stores in smaller rural communities had fresh oysters in November and December since they were a popular Christmas dish and were needed for the popular oyster suppers held in community halls and at churches. Canned oysters were also available by 1906 and made an acceptable substitute for some recipes when fresh were not available.

The first step was to make the cream sauce. It begins with a roux (butter and flour) and then adding the hot milk. I melted the 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan and then added 1 heaping tablespoon of flour. I heated the 1 cup of milk and slowly added it to the roux. I kept stirring until it thickened. I added a few shakes of salt and pepper and the 1 teaspoon of celery salt. Sometimes people are surprised that celery salt was available in the early 20th century but this ingredient appears in several recipes in the cook book.

It was now time to heat the oysters. I opened the can and poured everything (oysters and liquid) into a small saucepan. I used a low heat and made sure I took them off the stove once they were hot. It was time to put everything together. I strained the oysters into a bowl and then strained my creamed sauce since it had a few lumps. We toasted some bread and took it along with the bowl of creamed oysters to the table. It was time to taste.

Mrs. J. Decker is likely Veronica Kirsch, wife of John Decker (also spelled Decher). Their daughter Nellie also contributed recipes for the Berlin Cook Book. Veronica was born in Formosa in Bruce County Ontario in 1858. Her parents were born in Germany and her father was a shoemaker and so was her husband. Perhaps this shared trade connected the young couple since John was from Waterloo County and Veronica was still living in Bruce County when they married in Walkerton in 1877. They also didn’t share a religion as John was Lutheran and Veronica was Catholic according to their marriage records and censuses. They maintained this religious diversity as the 1911 census lists them as Lutheran and Catholic while their twelve children are recorded as Church of England. The couple spent the first years of their marriage in Walkerton but moved to Berlin around 1897.

The finished product – creamed oysters.

My father chose to put his creamed oysters on a piece of toast while my brother put his serving on his plate and had the toast separate. I bravely took a bite of one little oyster. I didn’t like it but that doesn’t mean much as I don’t like seafood. However, my father ate his but also doesn’t enjoy oysters. He prefers things like shrimp. My brother loved Creamed Oysters and even though he liked the oysters straight from the can he felt this cream sauce made them even better. I also liked the cream sauce. Celery salt is not a seasoning a regularly use but perhaps I should consider trying it more often. This recipe can time travel to 2019, if you have a can of oysters handy. Canned oysters are not cheap but this sort of cream sauce could be used with canned salmon too.

Mrs. J. Decker
To 1/2 tablespoon butter melted in a saucepan, add 1 heaping tablespoon flour, cook a few moments and stir in gradually one cup of hot milk, season with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoonful of celery salt, wash and pick over 1 pint of fine oysters, boil them in their own liquor until plump, drain and pour over them the sauce.


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Prince of Wales Cake

I have missed working with historic recipes and this cookbook in particular. It’s been seven years since I started this blog to record my attempt to cook every day in 2012 from a local community cookbook called The Berlin Cook Book which had been published in 1906 in the town of Berlin but had contributors from neighbouring communities and even from other parts of Ontario and the United States. In 1912 the town became a city and then during the first world war the name changed to Kitchener. Cooking each day from this cook book, and researching the recipe contributors, gave me a sense of the vibrant and diverse Canadian community of Berlin.

The cookbook reflects it’s Canadian nature by including recipes named for members of the royal family. There are four recipes for Prince of Wales Cake but for some reason back in 2012 I only tried making one of them. This particular version was contributed by Mrs. McCutcheon. It is a three part recipe with the cake, a dressing for the cake, and something for the top of the cake.

I started by making the cake using my usual method. Recipes in this cook book vary with some providing detailed methods and others like this one simply listing the ingredients, often in no particular order. I decided to cream the 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar together first. I used salted butter and white granulated sugar as this would be typical of the early 20th century. Then I added the 2 tablespoons of regular molasses and 2 eggs to the creamed mixture. Usually I use medium eggs but this time I had only large ones available. Next I mixed the 2 cups of flour with the cream of tartar and the raisins before stirring it into the bowl. Finally I made sour milk by adding 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to 1/2 cup of 2% milk. Today’s milk is not going to go sour the way it would in 1906. It has been homogenized and pasteurized so adding vinegar to it simulates sour milk. Once everything was well mixed I poured the batter into a greased and floured round cake tin and put it in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 35 minutes. It appeared to be done after that time but later I discovered it probably needed a bit more time. The molasses darkens the cake and so it is a little harder to tell when it is ready. I did insert a knife into the centre and it came out clean.

While the cake cooled I moved on to making the “dressing”. I decided this was probably more like a cake filling since there was also a topping. I mixed 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 egg, and the grated rind of a lemon in a small saucepan. Then I added 2 tablespoons of hot water and mixed well before turning on the heat. Once it was boiling I kept stirring for two minutes and took it off the heat once it was thick. It looked a bit like lemon curd.

I wasn’t sure how to approach the “topping” of eggs and sugar. It sounded a bit like meringue but I didn’t want to put it on the entire cake so I quartered the recipe. I used 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I whipped the egg white with a whisk and then added the sugar and whipped some more. Women in 1906 needed strong arms since all this cake mixing and egg whipping is done without electric appliances. I’m out of practice!

Rather than affect the entire cake if any of the elements didn’t work I decided to cut one slice and prepare it completely. I cut the slice in half and then spread some of the filling between the two layers. Next I put a bit of the egg white topping on  it. Now it was time to taste.

The title Prince of Wales is usually held by the heir apparent. After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 her eldest son the Prince of Wales became King Edward VII. This recipe could refer to him but more likely references his son George who became the new Prince of Wales in 1901. Here’s a link to a picture of the Prince of Wales in 1906

During the entire 366 days I worked with this cookbook in 2012, I never used a recipe contributed by Mrs. McCutcheon, so it is exciting to find out about someone new. Over the years as I worked to learn about the recipe contributors I created a family tree. Mrs. McCutcheon is likely Anna A. Hopp wife of Joseph Henry McCutcheon and she is related to several other contributors. She was born in 1876 here in Berlin and raised Lutheran by her German born parents Christian and Elizabeth Louise (Sengbusch) Hopp. She had four older brothers and sisters and her father was listed in the1881 census as a laborer. The two oldest siblings were listed as factory hands. In 1891 her father is a day labourer and all the children are working in a button factory. Berlin was well known for its button factories and was sometimes nicknamed Buttonville.

Anna was 21 when married her husband Joseph in 1898. Their daughter Odeila was born the next year. A few years before they married Joseph was working for a merchant tailor Martian Greibenstein and in the 1901 census he’s listed as a tailor. I’m not sure what happens to this family in the following years as they don’t seem to be in the 1911 or 1921 census. However, I do know that Anna lived for many years. She died in 1967 at the age of 91 and is buried in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery.

This cake wasn’t a great success but I think that is due more to my interpretation of the recipe. It would have been better to bake the cake in two pans. I think the cake might have risen and sunk a bit resulting in a dense cake. I probably should have separated the eggs for the cake and whipped the whites. The recipe following this one in the cook book is identical except that it calls for another cup of flour. The cake itself tasted good. I like the mild molasses flavour and the combination of raisins and lemon is one of my favourites. The filling has too much egg flavour for my taste (I really don’t like eggs) and not enough lemon flavour but would probably suit most people. In today’s world uncooked eggs are not considered safe so this topping would need to be made with pasteurized eggs or perhaps the completed cake is supposed to go back in the oven briefly to “toast” the meringue.

Mrs. McCutcheon’s version of Prince of Wales Cake has potential as a cake but hasn’t made the trip to the 21st century as well as some of the other recipes in the Berlin Cook Book. But then Mrs. Julius Gerbig’s version didn’t time travel well either. You can read about it here:

Mrs. McCutcheon

1 cup white sugar, 2 tablespoons molasses, 1/2 cup butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour milk, 1 cup seeded raisins (chopped), 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 2 cups flour.

Dressing for Cake — 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 grated lemon, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon hot water, boil for 2 or 3 minutes and stir till thickens.

For top of Cake — whites of 4 eggs, 8 tablespoons of white sugar, stirred together.

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German Christmas Cookies

I’m back! It has been about twenty months since I last added anything to this blog. Instead, every day in 2014 I cooked daily from another local community cook book, this time from Galt (now Cambridge). I succeeded with that personal challenge too but when the year ended I chose to spend the first months of the new year taking care of my mother and then I started a new job. The job has been great but sadly my mother died in July. I took time from work and from these blogs to spend time with her and then with the rest of my family. However, I have missed these virtual conversations and the opportunity to cook from historic recipes.

But I’m back! I was asked to talk about these two community cookbooks as part of a Christmas tea. So tomorrow I’ll be speaking at Waterloo Region Museum for their Christmas Tea & Talk. I spent today baking for the tea! We’re serving Mrs. Young’s Christmas Drop Cakes and Miss Cowan’s Shortbread from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book and Mrs. Erbach’s Christmas Cake, Mrs A.Graber’s Pepper Nuts, May Haddow’s Maple Cream, and Meda Oberlander‘s German Christmas Cookies from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.

I’ve tested and written about all of these recipes except one. I decided one way to get back into writing for this blog was to try a new recipe. I’ve tried most of the Christmas recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book except for German Christmas Cookies. The recipe’s contributor Meda Oberlander will be familiar to regular readers.

When I looked closer at the recipe I realized why I’d never tried it back in 2012. It requires two days to prepare. Cooking everyday I rarely had time to plan ahead and so I kept skipping this recipe – even when I finally had a kitchen again. The cookies are rolled out, another thing I avoid whenever possible, and that has to happen on the first day. They are baked on the second day. Knowing that today was tea baking day I went into work yesterday afternoon to start these cookies.

First I weighed one pound (about 2 1/4 cups) of brown sugar and put it into a bowl. It turned out I had a bag of sugar labelled old fashioned brown sugar which seemed appropriate. You could probably use dark or golden brown sugar too. Next I added three large eggs since that was the size in the fridge. Normally I use medium sized eggs in these recipes. I mixed the two ingredients well and then started adding the quart of molasses. Measuring a quart should be easy but is it be an Imperial quart or an American quart? Just as the American gallon is smaller than the Imperial gallon so is the quart. Canadian cookbooks, especially community cookbooks can have a mix of many types of measurements. However, since Miss Oberlander is submitting this recipe from Syracuse New York I decided to use the American quart (4 cups of liquid).

Capture Lemons

Ads for lemons in The Canadian Grocer magazine in 1906.

I washed two lemons and grated the rind into the bowl. I squeezed the two lemons well, so well I had to spend time removing the seeds that fell into the bowl! I didn’t have brandy handy (I was at work after all) so I used 2 tablespoons of brandy extract. Then I stirred everything well.

In a separate bowl I weighed the 2 ounces (about 3/4 cup) of citron and mixed it into the batter. Now for another challenge — when should I add the baking soda? It’s going to mix with the molasses and create a wonderful bubbling creation. I decided to add it with the flour at the end so I moved on to the spices. Okay — 1 teaspoon of all the spices — I decided it wasn’t the ingredient called allspice but rather 1 teaspoon of several spices. But which ones to use. My experience with this cookbook helps as I know that the most commonly used spices in baking are nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cinnamon and cloves and so I added one teaspoon of each of these to the mixture.

Time to add enough flour to make the dough stiff. I usually assume there will be as much flour as liquid in a recipe so that’s my starting point. I added two cups of flour with the one tablespoon of baking soda mixed in. When that was well blended I added another two cups. I’m sorry to say I lost track after that and can’t tell you how many cups in total I used for this cookie. I know that I had to keep adding flour bit by bit to get something that would roll out.

The next step was to roll out the dough and cut the cookies. How thick? What size of cookie? These are frequent challenges when dealing with historic recipes. Since the cookies are intended to be part of a tea I decided to make them small using a round cookie cutter with a diameter of less than two inches. I rolled the dough to match the height of the citron. Too thin and the citron pieces kept poking through the top and possibly burning during baking.

The cut cookies went onto parchment paper to sit overnight. I put another sheet of parchment on top as a precaution. I have to admit I only used half the dough. The remaining dough went into the fridge and my friend Jan rolled it and cut the rest of the cookies  this morning.

When I arrived at work this morning I moved the cookie filled parchment sheets onto baking sheets and put them in the preheated oven at 350 F. for about ten minutes. The cookies cut this morning were set aside until late this afternoon before they were baked. Any misshapen cookies were made available for taste testing.


German Christmas Cookies

Meda Oberlander was a prolific recipe contributor for The Berlin Cook Book. I am now convinced that she and her sister were the ones who initiated the cookbook and compiled the recipes. Meda was born in 1874 in Syracuse New York. She was the second youngest in a family of ten children and was only fourteen when her mother died. She lived here in Berlin Ontario when her father was minister at St. Peter’s Lutheran church and then returned with her brother Frederick when he became the minister at the same church. It was while keeping house for her brother that Meda must have decided to start this cookbook. Meda never married and continued to live with her brother where ever his career took him. She died in the city of New York sometime after 1940.

Testers liked the cookies but basically they are a molasses cookie with a bit of citron inside. They are soft when first removed from the oven but crisp up later. These cookies will be good for dunking in tea. I’ll let you know tomorrow how the guests liked all the treats.

Update (Nov.17): Today these cookies were served at the tea along with the other goodies. I think everyone found at least one they liked and several people indicated these cookies were their favourite!

Meda Oberlander, Syracuse, N.Y.

1 pound brown sugar, 1 quart molasses, 3 eggs, 2 lemons juice and grated rind, 2 ounces citron, 1 teaspoon all the spices, 1 tablespoon soda, 2 tablespoons brandy. Flour to make quite stiff. Roll out the night before baking.


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The New Galt Cook Book 1898

I am taking a break from The Berlin Cook Book for 2014 and focusing on another local cook book. I’m still cooking every day but this time it is an 1898 cook book from nearby Galt Ontario. Why not join me in the daily dip into The New Galt Cook Book at

The Berlin Cook Book (1906)

The Berlin Cook Book (1906)

The New Galt Cook Book (1898)

The New Galt Cook Book (1898)

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