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.


Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Food History, Kitchener | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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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Day 375 Beet Pickle

Beets ready to become Beet Pickle.

Beets ready to become Beet Pickle. Photo Candice Leyland.

I spent today as a Historic Foodways Artisan at the Heart and Hands Festival. This is an annual event at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery here in Kitchener and showcases practitioners of various traditional crafts. Since the museum’s time period is 1856 I was cooking over the open hearth in the wash-house and using some older equipment than that used by most women in 1906 when The Berlin Cook Book was published. I was at the haus all day so I had time to showcase two recipes from the cook book. I prepared Apple Catsup, a recipe I first tried on Day 64 of my year-long project, as well as a new one called Beet Pickle. It was contributed by Mrs. C. A. Kern.

Peeling Beets

Peeling Beets. Photo Candice Leyland.

It is always bit scary to try a new recipe in front of others but I thought this was simple enough to risk a possible mistake. The wonderful staff at Schneider Haus cooked the beets for me ahead of time. I just had to peel and trim them and then start chopping. If you’ve ever worked with beets you can imagine the state of my hands by the time I finished peeling and chopping. Modern cooks might choose to wear gloves to protect your hands but the rest of us just dig in and proudly show off our stained and dripping digits.

Chopping Beets for Beet Pickle

Chopping Beets.

I chopped about five beets to reach 1 quart (4 cups). Next I sliced off a chunk of a beautiful fresh cabbage. It didn’t take long to have 1 quart (4 cups) of chopped raw cabbage. I mixed the beets and cabbage together in a bowl and then started adding the rest of the ingredients.

Sacks of Flour and Sugar at the Dry Goods Store (Waterloo Region Museum)

Sacks of Sugar and Flour at the Dry Goods Store.

I added two cups of white granulated sugar and stirred it into the vegetables. In 1856, white sugar was special and was purchased as a cone of sugar that had to be stored covered in blue paper to keep it white. A chunk or lump of sugar was cut from the cone and pulverized every time you wanted to use sugar in a recipe. It was much easier in 1906. Sugar was purchased prepackaged in bags or in barrels or in bulk from the local grocer. The sugar was basically the same white granulated sugar we buy today in the grocery store. In fact many of the brands are still available today.


Horseradish root ready for peeling and grating.

I added the tablespoon of salt and the teaspoon of black pepper. Spices were purchased whole in 1856 and then ground at home as needed. By 1906, the women of Berlin Ontario could buy whole or ground spices. Since I was working in 1856 today, I had to grind the whole black pepper in a mortar with a pestle before adding the spice to the beet pickle. They grow horseradish in the garden at Schneider Haus so Kathryn kindly dug some fresh for me to use in this recipe. I cut a small piece of the horseradish root and peeled it using a knife. Then I grated it using the same knife until I had one teaspoon to add to the pickle.

Now it was time to add the vinegar. I wanted to be able to tell visitors . . . and you, how much vinegar was needed so I first poured it into a cup and then added it to the bowl of well mixed ingredients. I found that three cups of apple cider vinegar just covered the chopped vegetables. I stirred well and began to serve samples — after I tasted it first!

Mrs. C. A. Kern is likely Augusta H. Mai wife of Charles A. Kern. The couple lived in Berlin Ontario for the 1901 and 1911 censuses but had lived in Bentinck in Grey County in 1891, and then Brantford.  Charles grew up in Grey County and was probably born there too.  He became a barber and that’s the occupation listed in census and directories. Augusta was born in Germany and emigrated with her parents around 1872 when she was just four years old. By the time she was 23 she was married with a two-year old. When the cook book was published in 1906 Augusta and Charles had four children Gertrude age 16, Otto 12, Augusta “Gussie” 10, and Karl 2.  I was curious about the gaps in ages among these children. I found that there was another child between the first two children. Little Oscar Julius Kern died in 1893 just a month short of his second birthday. Cause of death was listed as congestion in lungs.   A sixth child was born in 1907, the year after the cook book appeared. Augusta died in 1933 at the age of 68.

P1080174I have concerns about attempting to preserve the Beet Pickle the way Mrs. Kerns describes. I’m not even confident about canning this using modern equipment since nothing has been cooked except the beets. Instead I would consider this a salad, much like a five bean salad. It will keep in a modern refrigerator for several days. And based on the visitor response to Beet Pickle, it won’t last long. This was an incredible hit for nearly all the tasters. Surprisingly about 90% of visitors liked beets or were at least willing to try a sample. Most of the tasters liked the beet pickle and took a copy of the recipe. The appeal seemed to be in the balance of sweet and sour and of crunchy cabbage with softer beet.

The last of the Beet Pickle. Good to the last drop.

The last of the Beet Pickle. Good to the last drop.

I was provided with some nice sweet tasting beets. I was worried the pickle would be too sweet with so much sugar but it seems to work well. A modern cook might want to try reducing the amount of sugar. Beets vary in sweetness so I’d recommend tasting the beets before adding all the sugar.  Some tasters thought the cabbage might be nice in shreds rather than in little square pieces and I think that could work. If you don’t have access to horseradish root, you can use commercially prepared horseradish or skip it entirely. No one really noticed it so I’m not sure it is an essential ingredient.There is scope to alter this recipe in a number of ways  including changing the spicing or even the type of vinegar. I used a regular green cabbage but a red cabbage would make it very striking.  I spoke with two people who really liked this recipe and found it familiar. One was visiting from Germany and the other grew up there as a child. Both said Mrs. Kern’s Beet Pickle reminded them of several dishes from back home. I’m not surprised since the contributor of this recipe, Augusta H. (Mai) Kerns was born in Germany. With several hundred people of all ages sampling Beet Pickle today, there was hardly a speck left by the end of the day. I was very surprised to see toddlers enjoying it as much as their parents and grandparents. This is definitely a time travel success!

UPDATE: Find out more about Joseph Schneider Haus and Gallery here:

If you enjoy food and this blog, consider attending the Forgotten Food Symposium. Details can be found here:


Mrs. C. A. Kern
1 quart raw cabbage chopped fine, 1 quart boiled beets chopped fine, 2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of grated horseradish, cover with cold vinegar and keep from air.

Posted in Cooking, Food History, Kitchener, Preserves, Salad, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Day 374 Vanilla Ice Cream

There is nothing quite like home-made ice cream on a hot day. Ice cream was a popular treat on a hot summer’s day in 1906. Today we can pull a tub of commercially prepared ice cream from the freezer, go to the corner store for an ice cream bar, or make a trip to a specialty place for an ice cream cone. It was not quite so easy in 1906 when the Berlin Cook Book was published.

First you needed to cook the mixture which would be the base for ice cream. Then you needed some sort of ice cream freezer. Next the cooled mixture had to be put into the prepared ice cream freezer. This step required the purchase of rock salt and ice. Some farm families had their own ice house but most city people bought ice from an ice dealer when they needed it. Blocks of ice were for the ice box used to store dairy products and meat at home. The ice had to be crushed before using in the ice cream freezer. Once everything was prepared it took time and effort to keep turning the crank handle on the ice cream freezer.

Waiting for ice cream

Waiting for ice cream

Today I’ve drafted two children and their parents to make and then eat Vanilla Ice Cream made from a recipe Mrs. Geo. Potter contributed to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I’ve been eyeing this recipe every hot day since I started this project last year. I was finally able to buy a reproduction hand cranked ice cream maker while attending the annual conference of the Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) in June. This wonderful practical gathering was held in Ohio this year, only an hours drive from Lehman’s Hardware store. Lehman’s carries many items still used by people who prefer to use manual rather than electric appliances.  I’ve been searching for a hand cranked ice cream maker for several years. Many of the newer versions are very poor quality. I wanted a small freezer that I could use safely for many years. Mine is a one quart ice cream maker from a company called Country Freezer.

New ice cream freezer ready to use.

New ice cream freezer ready to use.

I started by thoroughly washing the ice cream freezer. It consists of a metal container with a lid and a paddle inside. This container fits inside a wooden bucket. A handle goes across the top and connects to the paddle inside the metal container. When the crank handle is turned it makes the paddle inside move and that combined with a mixture of salt and ice in the bucket surrounding the metal container cools and churns the liquid ice cream base making it cold, thick, and smooth.

My ice cream freezer is very small so I used half the quantities called for in Mrs. Potter’s recipe. It is always a good idea to read a recipe over before beginning and this is especially important when dealing with recipes written in an older style. Check below for the original recipe. You’ll see that certain steps need to happen first. If I hadn’t read the recipe over first, I would likely have a very messy pan and stove to clean.  So instead of adding milk to a double boiler I began with the dry ingredients and a mixing bowl. I still managed to make a mistake when measuring the milk since I mixed up the number of cups in a pint and quart, something that didn’t happen when I was cooking 1906 style every day. Another measuring challenge can be whether to use the Imperial quart or the American quart. Although standardized measurements were becoming more common in 1906, English Canada remained a hodge podge of British and American influences. In Berlin Ontario German traditions were sometimes part of this mix.

I measured 1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 eggs in a bowl and beat them well. Then I stirred in the milk. The recipe mentions sweet milk which is just fresh milk rather than sour milk. In the days before pasteurization and homogenization, milk would eventually turn sour. I used 1 quart (4 cups) of regular 1% milk. One everything was well blended I poured it into the top pot of my double boiler. I kept the heat low at first and kept stirring. This mixture is essentially a custard and I have a very poor record for making custard. It usually curdles, lumps or burns. I tried to be very patient this time and kept stirring until it thickened. But how thick was thick? I decided to keep cooking until a spoonful stayed on the spoon. I poured the ice cream base back into a clean bowl and put it in my fridge to cool. A family in 1906 might cool it in a cellar or ice box or simply cover and leave to cool on the table (a riskier move on very hot day).

P1070890I forgot to purchase crushed ice from a nearby store but remembered to take all the other supplies to my friends’ house. Their neighbourhood existed in 1906 just like my home. After supper the children (age 6 and 9) and I got to work. Since I’d forgotten the ice, we used some ice cubes. The 9-year-old boy took care of putting the ice cubes in a bag and smashing them with a hammer on the back step just like children in 1906. The 6-year-old girl gathered some equipment for me. We poured two cups of whipping cream (35%) into the bowl of chilled custard. It was time to add the vanilla. We decided to start with 1 dessert spoon of pure vanilla extract. I stirred thoroughly and then the children and I tasted. They liked it but I decided it could use a little more vanilla. We added another dessertspoonful of extract. Now we agreed it was even better tasting. It was time to start freezing.

One of my helpers turning the crank to make ice cream

One of my helpers turning the crank to make ice cream

The ice cream maker came with excellent instructions. It is important to have the paddles/dasher in place before adding the liquid.  I poured the ice cream “batter” into the metal container just until half full, then put on the lid and place it in the wooden bucket. I fitted the handle and gear mechanism to the top. We added the crushed ice to the space between the metal container and the inside wall of the bucket. Ideally the ice comes to the top of the metal can but we didn’t have enough ice. It came to about one quarter the way up. I decided to go ahead. The children practised turning the handle and then I added about 1/8 cup of pickling salt. Slowly I added a bit more until I’d used 1/5 of a cup. The proportion of ice to salt is five cups of ice to 1 cup of salt. This proportion is key to success.

It was time to make some ice cream. The children and I took turns cranking the handle on the one quart ice cream freezer. To avoid accidents we worked outside on the back steps.  It took about 15 or 20 minutes of cranking until it became harder for the children to turn the handle. We checked and the ice cream had thickened. The ice and salt were now a liquid brine. Time to taste!

Mrs. Geo. Potter contributed quite  few recipes to the cook book. Matilda Oberlander was born in Syracuse New York in 1868. Her father was a doctor and then became a Lutheran minister. At one time he was the minister for St. Peter’s Lutheran church in Berlin Ontario. Probably Matilda met her future husband George Potter through the church although the 1901 census shows he was Presbyterian while Matilda is Lutheran. He was born here and had a successful hardware store. They married sometime between the 1892 New York census that reports Matilda single and the 1897 birth of their son Alexander in Berlin Ontario. The 1901 Canadian census shows that Matilda had a 20-year-old servant named  Edith Ballige to help with the home and care of three-year old Alexander.

In 1905, Matilda’s brother Frederick Oberlander became the minister of St. Peter’s church just like their father. Their younger sister Meda Oberlander came to keep house for him.  Shortly afterwards I believe the two sisters decided to compile a cook book that became The Berlin Cook Book. I finally discovered that the cook book was only available for sale at St. Peter’s manse — where Meda lived and at Potter’s Hardware — a store belonging to Matilda’s husband’s. Three years after the Berlin Cook Book was published, Matilda and George Potter had a daughter Virginia.

He scraped his bowl clean.

He scraped his bowl clean.

Time to taste Mrs. Potter’s ice cream! I rinsed the salty brine off the outside of the metal container before opening. After removing the dasher and letting the children swipe their fingers along it for a taste, we dished up servings of soft ice cream for everyone. It was a big hit. The children were great helpers and everyone had two helpings of the ice cream. The container was even scraped clean for every last bit of ice cream. This type of custard is the base for many ice cream recipes at the turn of the twentieth century and can still be found in some versions of ice cream. One adult grew up in Belfast and said this ice cream tasted like a special type served at one particular ice cream shop when he was a child.  When asked for their opinion of Mrs. Potter’s Vanilla Ice Cream every taster said “Yum” and made very happy noises.

Making sure both the bowl and spatula have been licked clean

Making sure both the bowl and spatula have been licked clean

It was good fun making ice cream with my helpers and I highly recommend trying it yourself. I still have lots of ice cream base left so I’ll be making more this week. Next time I’ll make sure I have enough ice as I think the result will be even better. Modern cooks could use this recipe as a base to add other flavours, fruit, or even real vanilla bean. There are a number of ice cream makers available or you can try putting the mix in a plastic bag and then putting it in another bag filled with ice and salt. Keep shaking the bag until the ice cream hardens. You could also just freeze the mixture in your freezer. Try taking it out every so often and stirring. However, if you have access to an old style ice cream freezer, pull it out on a hot day and make this ice cream.

Mrs. Geo. Potter
Place in a double boiler 2 quarts of sweet milk, mixed with 3 cups sugar 1/2 cup flour, 4 eggs, beat the sugar, flour, eggs, together before you mix with the milk. When this thickens take off and let cool. When cold add 1 quart sweet cream and vanilla to taste. Freeze.

Posted in Creams and Ices, Dessert, Food History, Kitchener, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Day 373 Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie

I’m spending the long Canada Day weekend at my sister’s 140 year old home in Almonte near Ottawa. Last night we went to her potluck book club meeting. Our contributions included several dishes  made using previous recipes from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and one new recipe Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie. It’s a recipe contributed by Mrs. H. Rathman and a good choice while rhubarb continues in season . The Beet Salad recipe from Day 1 and the Porto Rican Stuffed Dates from Day 199 continue to stand the test of time. We altered the Sweet Potato Croquets recipe from Day 280 to make it a casserole.

Rhubarb ready to pick

Rhubarb ready to pick

There’s a curious detail missing in the recipe for Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie — it doesn’t include green currants in the body of the recipe!! Not having access to green currants I decided to skip this part of the recipe and make it a rhubarb pie. My first step was to go out in the rain to my sister’s garden and pick some rhubarb. It is best to pull rhubarb rather than cut it but it was so wet outside I nearly pulled out the entire plant. I had to twist the stalks off instead. I brought the stalks into the old fashioned kitchen and cut off the leaves and ends and gave them a quick rinse. I chopped the rhubarb finely and discovered I needed just two stalks of the very large rhubarb to reach 1 1/2 cups.

As regular readers know, I have trouble making pastry, so I opted for a premade frozen pie shell since I was serving this untested recipe to strangers. Hopefully, they could eat the crust if the rest of the pie was awful. This is not a luxury available to the women of Berlin in 1906. They either mastered the art of pastry or everyone grew accustomed to their terrible crusts.

Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie ready for the oven.

Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie ready for the oven.

I put the chopped rhubarb in the pie shell and then mixed the other ingredients in a bowl. I cracked one large egg into the bowl and whisked it slightly before adding the 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour. After mixing well, I decided it would be better to include the rhubarb as the mixture was quite thick and it might be difficult to spread evenly over the rhubarb. I stirred in the rhubarb and then spooned the mixture into the pie shell. I baked the pie in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I discovered part way through baking that my sister’s oven temperature is higher than indicated so the pie probably baked for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees and another 15 at 350 degrees. Once the pie crust was brown and the top of the pie was golden, we packed it up to take to the pot luck supper. I looked forward to tasting it. We opted not to add the merinque on top.

Mrs. H. Rathman was one of the older contributors to the Berlin Cook Book. Catherine (Kathrine) Kraemer was born in 1845 so she was 21 years old when Canada officially became a country in 1867. Both her parents were born in France (probably an area that switched between France and Germany). She married German born Herman(n) Rathman sometime before 1865. They had four children and in 1911 Herman and Catherine lived at 91 Frederick Street in Berlin Ontario with their 33 year old daughter. Catherine died suddenly in December 1919 at the age of 73 of a cerebral embolus.

Pie fresh from the oven.

Pie fresh from the oven.

All the dishes we brought to the potluck were well received and there wasn’t a crumb left of the Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie despite it’s unappealing appearance. The pie filling was quite liquid so I think it might need a little more baking or leave it to sit and cool instead of trying to transport it right away. The meringue would hide any imperfections on the top surface. Several book club members really liked the pie.

Rhubarb and Green Currant Pie
Mrs. H. Rathman
Mix 1 egg, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour. Cut 1 1/2 cups rhubarb in small pieces, line a pie plate with paste, put in the above mixture and bake. Make a frosting of the whites of 2 eggs and return to the oven for a few minutes.

Posted in Food History, Kitchener, Pie, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Day 372 Dandelion Wine

Today is Victoria Day, a Canadian holiday that marks the beginning of the summer season for many of us. A day of relaxation, gardening, fireworks, and puttering around trying things you might not on a normal day. This morning a friend posted on Facebook wondering if anyone had a recipe for dandelion wine since she had loads of them on her lawn. Someone posted a link to a recipe and then I remembered the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I was sure there was a recipe for Dandelion Wine in the Beverage section. I pulled out the cook book and there were two recipes. I decided to make the one contributed by A Friend since it was my friend who reminded me to try it!

Dandelion ready for picking.

Dandelion ready for picking.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with these bright weeds. They are lots of fun in childhood when we can use them to make chains or pop off their heads or see if our friend likes butter. As adults we know the leaves can be eaten and are supposed to be good for us but really we secretly know they are weeds. When the flowers bloom they can make us smile briefly since they are such a bright spot in the early spring. But soon we are mowing down this cheerful yellow flower. My lawn needed mowing but first I picked all the dandelion flowers I could find in my tiny yard.

Boiling the dandelion flowers.

Boiling the dandelion flowers.

I ended up with 1 quart of dandelions so I needed to cut the recipe by a fourth. Fortunately this is an easy recipe to convert. Instead of four quarts of dandelions I had 1 quart (4 cups) to rinse. I boiled two quarts (8 cups) of water in a large pot and then added the washed dandelion flowers. I covered the pot and left it to boil for 30 minutes.  I poured the greenish-yellow liquid through a strainer and discarded the sad-looking dandelion flowers.

Adding lemons to the dandelion liquid.

Adding lemons to the dandelion liquid.

Now I had to figure out the rest  of the recipe. I poured the liquid back into the pot to keep warm. I sliced one and a half lemons and added them to the liquid. I stirred in 1 pound (2 cups) of sugar and left the pot to warm slowly on the burner. I had it turned to low. Another recipe had mentioned keeping the liquid warm but not boiling. I squeezed the lemon slices a bit with a spoon and removed everything from the heat after about 15 minutes. I strained it again and poured the soon to be dandelion wine into preserving jars. I left about an inch of head space in the jar and used plastic lids rather than sealing lids in hopes of avoiding problems when the wine ferments. I’ve heard stories of burst jars and sticky messes. If this works I will have to find my bottles. They haven’t made it back to their usual location after they were packed out more than a year ago.

The Friend contributing this recipe has to remain a mystery. Since I now strongly believe Meda Oberlander played a big role in creating the Berlin Cook Book it is likely she’s connected to the contributor. I’ve discovered that a number of contributors were related by birth or marriage to Miss Oberlander. Mrs George Potter was her sister. The Boullees in New Hamburg (Ontario) and Syracuse (New York) were also relatives. Another possibility is a contributor who attended a church now following a more temperate path. Some members of the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations were active in the temperance movement and might have looked poorly upon a fellow church goer who contributed a recipe for an alcoholic beverage.

Day 1 of Dandelion Wine

Day 1 of Dandelion Wine

Before bottling my fresh dandelion wine, I decided to taste it in its non fermented state. It was delicious!! I was shocked. The sweet lemon flavour made it more like lemonade. There was just a hint of dandelion. This gives me hope that the final product might be drinkable. I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait for that moment. Some other recipes suggest a week or two of fermenting and then another week of rest. I’ll let you know the result.

Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine

A Friend
4 quarts of flowers, 8 quarts boiling water, boil for 1/2 hour and then strain, add 6 lemons, 4 pounds of white sugar, strain again and bottle.

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Day 370 Syracuse High School Fudge Cake

Today is the last day of April and in Canada it is the last day to file a tax return without penalty. It also marks one year since I found out my job was coming to an end. I think this is a day deserving of chocolate cake. I’ve selected Hulda Boullee’s recipe for Syracuse High School Fudge Cake for this month’s recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.

I started by creaming the butter and sugar as Miss Boullee suggested. I debated the next step. Usually the yolks of the three eggs would be added now but she seems to indicate the whole eggs are whipped and added at the end. I decided to follow her recipe as written. I mixed in the 2 % milk next. . Sifting isn’t really necessary with modern pre-sifted flour but it is a good idea when combining with baking powder. My baking powder has seen much less use the past few weeks then its almost daily use last year. As a result it is a bit lumpy. Sifting made sure there were no baking powder lumps in the cake. If you don’t have a sifter, a sieve does the trick. I mixed the baking powder/flour combination into the batter.

I wanted to make this cake last year but dreaded grating 1/4 cup of chocolate. Turns out it really isn’t that much chocolate. I used half of a square of Bakers™ unsweetened chocolate. I manually grated my chocolate into a cup and then set the cup in hot water to melt. Meanwhile I measured the walnuts. Once the chocolate was melted I mixed it into the batter along with the walnuts and then whipped the three medium whole eggs. They were a bit frothy when I tried to incorporate them into the rest of the mixture. I’m sure there is some molecular reason for my difficulty blending but I persevered and finally had a smooth batter. I forgot to add any vanilla. I poured the batter into two greased round cake pans and baked them for 30 minutes at 350°F.

The two cake layers were perfectly baked and I set them aside to cool while I started the icing. I melted the butter in a small saucepan and added the cocoa powder. Not surprisingly Hulda uses the American term confectioner’s sugar for what I call icing sugar. I stirred in the icing sugar, milk, and a bit of salt. I turned up the heat until it boiled and then reduced the heat a bit. I let it boil for 8 minutes stirring often. I’m not sure if that was a mistake. I began to realize that I was making fudge as the icing and usually it isn’t to be stirred until the end. At the 8 minute mark I removed the pan from the heat and started stirring. I kept stirring until it was smooth and then added the vanilla.

I didn’t think there was enough icing to use it as a filling as well as a topping so I put the two cake layers together using some raspberry jam. Then I poured the chocolate mixture over top. It looked nice and glossy but was very sticky. I couldn’t wait to taste the cake but let it cool a bit more.

Hulda Boullee was born in New York state in 1885. Her father Ottoman was born in Wilmot Township here in Waterloo Region but emigrated to the United States in 1878. Hulda and another contributor Florence Augusta Boullee are first cousins — their fathers were brothers. Hulda’s mother Louise was born in Germany and emigrated in 1862. I’ve just discovered that Louise was an Oberlander before marriage!! In fact Hulda’s middle name is Oberlander.  This makes Meda Oberlander, the woman I strongly suspect was responsible for the Berlin Cook Book, Hulda’s aunt. Louise was the eldest girl and Meda was the youngest girl in the large Oberlander family. Louise also contributed a recipe to the cook book.

Hulda is the oldest child in the Boullee family and has four brothers and a sister in the 1900 census. Her father is a commercial traveller. The household also includes a 20 year old woman boarder who works as a housekeeper and her mother’s clergyman brother Fred Oberlander. Based on the 1910 census it appears that Mr. Boullee is an agent for a piano business while 24 year old Hulda is a clerk in a business. What doesn’t show in the census is that Hulda was a talented singer. An article in the Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph newspaper on June 28, 1906 (coincidentally just four days after the first ad for the Berlin Cook Book appears in a competitor’s paper) describes her performance at a local fundraising recital.  The article states:

Concert and Organ Recital. In Aid of the Berlin Waterloo Hospital was Well Attended. A Neat Sum Realized.

The concert and organ recital given in the St. John’s Lutheran Church, Waterloo, on Wednesday evening, in aid of the Berlin and Waterloo Hospital, was a most successful affair, both financially and otherwise. Rev. Mr. Maas, of Preston, acted as chairman, and referred in a few appropriate words to the object of the concert, and spoke of the worthiness of the cause for which it was being given. Rev. A. R. Schulz, of Elmira also made a brief address of welcome. Vocal selections were given by Mrs. H. M. Snyder, Miss Huldah Boullee, of Syracuse, N.Y., Miss Ella Anthes, Mr. Chas. Ruby, Mr. Edward Clement, Mr. E. M. Shildrick, and organ numbers by Mrs. Spady, besides selections by the choir of the church, all of which made up an excellent programme, and furnished and evening of enjoyment for those in attendance. The services of those taking part were given gratuitously and their efforts in thus assisting a worthy institution were heartily appreciated. About $50 was realized.

Hulda Boullee married Alfred Crispin in Niagara Falls, Ontario on November 10, 1910. He was a traveller and had been born in Syracuse like Hulda. It appears that his father might have been Canadian born. They were not married in a religious ceremony — perhaps because she was Lutheran and he was Methodist. The couple are still going strong in the 1930 US census. Alfred is a salesman for an oil and gas company. However, the 1940 census shows Hulda living with her cousin Irving Oberlander  and his wife Catherine and their two daughters Meta and Marcia at 216 Sedgwick Street in Syracuse, NY. It indicates that 51 year old Hulda is still married rather than widowed and she’d been living in New York City on April 1, 1935. Like others in the Oberlander family, Irving is a medical doctor. I think I’ll have to do some more research to find out the rest of Hulda’s story.

A slice of Syracuse High School Fudge Cake

A slice of Syracuse High School Fudge Cake

This cake did not turn out as I expected. The cake itself is okay. The texture is very nice and the chocolate flavour is mild. This is common for chocolate cakes in the early twentieth century. They usually didn’t have the deep chocolate flavour we expect today. The colour of the cake is a light brown rather than the dark almost black colour I associate with a chocolate cake. The icing wasn’t the fudgy thick icing I loved at childhood birthday parties but rather it was a sticky sort of chocolate candy like coating. Everything tasted fine it just wasn’t what I was hoping to taste. It’s possible I made a mistake while making the icing. Maybe I should not have stirred while it boiled or maybe I should have stirred longer when it came off the heat. Fortunately culinary mistakes are usually still edible.

I’m not sure I’d make Hulda Boullee’s Syracuse High School Fudge Cake again but I will try to find out more about Hulda.

Hulda Boullee, Syracuse, New York
Take 1 cup of sugar, 2/3 cup butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 1/2 cups of flour 2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder, 1//4 cup of grated chocolate, 1/2 cup of English walnuts broken up coarsely. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the cup of milk then stir in lightly the flour in which the baking powder has been sifted. Next stir in the chocolate which has been melted by placing in a cup and setting in hot water. Add the nuts, lastly the eggs which should be beaten to a froth. Vanilla to taste if desired. The fudge frosting should be made as follows. — 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa, 1 1/4 cupsful of confectioner’s sugar, a few grains of salt, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Melt butter, add cocoa, sugar, salt and milk heat to boiling point and boil about 8 minutes. Remove from fire and beat until creamy add vanilla and pour over cake to depth of 1/4 inch.

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