Day 1 Sour Milk Cakes, Beet Salad and German Mashed Potatoes

Welcome to 366 Days with the Berlin Cook Book. Today marks the beginning of a year-long project for me. My goal — to prepare a recipe every day from The Berlin Cook Book a local community recipe book published in 1906. It was compiled by the Ladies of Berlin, Waterloo and Friends Elsewhere as a fundraiser. Why use it now? Well this year the community of Kitchener Ontario (formerly called Berlin) celebrates 100 years as a city. In 1912 the town of Berlin Ontario became the city of Berlin. The name was later changed to Kitchener.

My goal is to follow the recipes in the Berlin Cookbook in an attempt to capture a bit of the atmosphere of life in Berlin in 1912. Although I don’t have a 1912 era stove I do live in a house which existed at the time. I will attempt to stay true to the era by preparing food in season and without the use of my microwave.

Today is New Years Day and a holiday so let’s start off with a bang. For breakfast I made a recipe contributed by Mrs. James Wesley for Sour Milk Cakes (p. 131) which is in a section called Pancakes. The recipe requires sour milk. In 1906 this would be milk that was beginning to go sour but today milk is pasteurized and doesn’t sour the same way. I added some vinegar to my milk to simulate sour milk. The batter is thick and makes a thick pancake. It was very good with maple syrup!

Supper included two more dishes created with recipes from the cook book. I chose to make German Mashed Potatoes from a recipe submitted by “A Lover of Good Mashed Potatoes” p. 65 in the Vegetable section of the cookbook. This is a very typical method of making mashed potatoes.

The other recipe uses two ingredients often forgotten – beets and celery. Beet Salad was surprisingly good. It includes a boiled dressing. I’ve made this style of dressing in historic sites but never think to make it at home. It is a good choice when the stove is already hot.  The Salad section of the cookbook includes two recipes for beet salads. This one was submitted by Mrs. Ed. Heller p. 101. The challenge with the salad was to determine what a “bunch of celery” would look like in 1906. I opted to use three stalks but I think it could use more if you like celery. I used Keens powdered mustard. This recipe would make a good base for any creative cook today. It was so good I had seconds!

Update: June 2013 — The Beet Salad recipe continues to be a favourite. I have made it several times for guests and it is always a hit. Here’s to time travelling recipes!


2 1/2 cups flour, 2 cupsful sour milk, 1/2 teaspoonful salt, 1 egg, 1 1/4 teaspoonsful soda. Mix and sift flour, salt and soda, add sour milk and egg well beaten. Bake on a hot griddle iron. Serve with butter and maple syrup.


Boil desired quantity of potatoes until well done, then drain well, mash thoroughly, season with salt, add sufficient hot (not cold) milk and a generous piece of butter, beat all together until of a creamy appearance, keep warm, best to serve at once.


Boil 2 beets till tender, then chop fine, chop fine one bunch celery, make a dressing of 2 eggs beaten, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon mustard, boil till thick then mix with the beets and celery.

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18 Responses to Day 1 Sour Milk Cakes, Beet Salad and German Mashed Potatoes

  1. Desmond Jagger-Parsons says:

    Bravo Carolyn! You are welcome to give us a list of ingredients, adn we’ll invite you over to prepare something from the Berlin Cookbook at our house (I could even help, or do it under your supervision). Or does that break the deal? You could offer guest appearances in your blog throughout the year.

    • That sounds like a great idea Desmond! I’ll look for something your family might like (and that might be a challenge for me to consume). There are many egg dishes in the cookbook and I don’t like eggs!

  2. Julia Cardiff says:

    Carolyn – good luck with your goal! I loved the movie “Julie & Julia”. I hope you have as satisfying experience, with all its ups and downs!

  3. ve3sy says:

    Great idea however the author may wish to post her name and some additional information. Possibly the ABOUT section would be a good location?

    Paul Cassel

    • Thanks for the tip, Paul. I think you are the first poster that I don’t know! I’ve added information to the ABOUT section now. This is my first time using a blog and I have dial up internet so I am starting out simple. I’m glad you like the idea.

      • paulhcassel says:

        I found your blog from a link on a WHS facebook posting and I expect others followed the link as well. Great idea on the 100th anniversary of the WHS.


  4. Lindsay Weir says:

    This is a wonderful project Carolyn!!! I am also trying to cook at home more this year (to improve my health and save some money) and may borrow an idea or two from you! Good luck and I look forward to reading about your adventures!

    • Thanks, Lindsay. I got the idea from our historical food evenings. I’m not sure how healthy this will be as there are a lot of recipes using sugar and lard but I’ll try to balance them with veggies.

  5. michelle spencer says:

    Great job, Carolyn. I’m excited to try some of the recipes and read your blog!

  6. Tom Reitz says:

    Carolyn – what a great project! When you get to the chapter with chocolate cakes … CALL.

  7. ginaholstead says:

    Fantastic project!
    Beet salad sounds wonderful!
    Chocolate….I’m a great tester!

  8. Laura Shepherd says:

    Hey Carolyn–Lynne sent me the article from the KW Record! It looks you are having a great adventure with these recipes and the historical aspect of the women who contributed to the cookbook.

    Congrats on staying with your love of history! Take care.

    Laura Shepherd

  9. Laurie says:

    Well Carolyn, it is so strange now to look back at Day 1 of your blog. Little did you know what would happen a few months later, making it such an immense challenge to stay faithful to this blog even still, and yet you have forged on, mixing bowl in one hand, plaster dust in the other.

    • Thank you! You prompted me to take a look back too. So far i
      it has been fun, interesting, and difficult, but well worth it too. I’m meeting interesting people here and continue to find it a chance to learn so many new things.

  10. Pingback: Day 353 Roast Turkey with Sweet Potato Dressing | 366dayswiththeberlincookbook

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