It’s cold outside and there were local turnips available in the market today so I’m trying Creamed Turnip Soup (p. 23). This recipe was submitted to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book by Mrs. Harth. Turnips differ from rutabagas in a few ways but are often used (and named) interchangeably. Turnips have thin skins with a purple tinge while rutabagas have a yellow tinged skin which is often waxed for winter storage. The flesh of the turnip is white and the rutabaga has yellow flesh. Root vegetables were a winter mainstay long ago and are still a good choice if you want to eat local at this time of the year.
The 1901 census in Berlin Ontario lists Maggie (44) and Martin (47) Harth along with their six children ranging in age from 23 to 10. It’s possible that the oldest boy had married by 1906 and his wife submitted this recipe but I suspect that it was Maggie. This seems like an inexpensive dish suitable for a growing family and probably served the Harths well over the years. None of the family seems to show up in the 1911 census. I wonder where they went and if they returned to see Berlin become a city in 1912?
I did not attempt to make the amount indicated in the recipe. It would serve Maggie’s family of eight quite well. Instead I used one turnip which made a large bowl of soup. I wasn’t sure what a “block” would be so I cut the turnip in cubes around 1 inch in size. I added water to cover and cooked the turnip cubes in a saucepan for just over 1/2 an hour.
I think they would need a little longer to easily push through a colander. Mine ended up with some chunks which added some texture to the soup. I followed the directions for thickening the soup but used 1/2 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of flour and added about 1/4 cup of milk to the tiny amount of water still left in the pot. I added some salt and pepper as suggested but I skipped adding an egg to the tureen since I would need to take just 1/6th of the egg! If you like eggs, it would probably be a nice addition to the soup — a bit like egg drop soup. Again this would add a little more nutrition to the soup and stretch an egg for the Harth family. Although my mother still has parsley growing in her garden, mine is done so I also didn’t add parsley.
So how did it taste? Well, it tasted like turnip and milk with a little salt and pepper. Fine if you like turnip. I don’t mind turnip but it isn’t the first vegetable I choose to eat. A modern turnip lover might add some more herbs to the soup to enhance the taste.
CREAMED TURNIP SOUP
Take 6 new turnips, cut in blocks, stew gently for 1/2 an hour in water enough to cover them; remove the turnips and press through a colander, return to the soup which should be about 1 quart in quantity, rub together a tablespoon butter and 2 of flour, stir into the soup when it is boiling, add a cup of hot milk and season to taste with salt and pepper, beat up an egg in the turreen [sic] and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley, pour the soup over the egg, stirring as it is poured and serve.