I had some left over boiled potatoes so I decided to make Mrs. E. Hollinger’s Cream of Potato Soup (p. 24). It’s one of three potato soup recipes in the Berlin Cook Book. This particular one includes hot or cold potatoes in the list of ingredients. Celery salt and onions are included as flavourings along with the usual salt and pepper seasonings making this recipe a bit different from the other two potato soup recipes. I had to buy celery salt when I started this project as it isn’t something I normally stock. However, it appears in a number of recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. In tasting the soup I’ve discovered celery salt tastes like celery!
According to the 1901 census Mary Hollinger is 31 years old and married to Edward who is listed as the head of household in Waterloo. There are a number of lodgers reported along with boarders and domestics. At some point they move to Berlin where the 1911 census lists the childless couple as lodgers in the Karn household along with a number of other people. As I mention at the beginning of this project I’ve been fascinated by this cookbook for a long time and I’ve wanted to find out about the people behind it. Clearly I need to do some research about Mary. This soup would be a good choice if she’s feeding lodgers/boarders as it would be inexpensive and easy to multiply or stretch. Later if she’s able to do her own cooking as a lodger then this soup recipe can be easily reduced if she’s cooking just for herself and Edward.
I always tell people to read recipes carefully from beginning to end but I don’t always take my own advice. This left me quickly transferring my onion back to the cutting board so that I could finely chop my already sliced onions. That instruction appears late in the recipe.
A flour and butter mixture (roux) is the base of the soup as it is for many of the soup and sauce recipes in this cookbook. Milk is then added. I generally use skim or 1% milk when making recipes from older cook books. This comes from cooking in historic farm settings where milk would have been skimmed so that the cream portion could be turned into butter or sold to the creamery. This left skimmed milk for household use. It was different in a town (and soon to be city) like Berlin where residents likely purchased milk, cream and butter via dairies.
The odd thing about this recipe is it doesn’t say when to add the potatoes. I choose to add them with the onions. I cooked the soup until the onions were soft but still had a bit of crunch to them. You could perhaps soften the onions ahead if you prefer or just cook the soup longer. Straining the soup will remove the onions and any chunks of potato. I happen to like a soup with texture so sampled a bit strained but ate my portion as a chunky soup. The amount of milk can be varied too for a thicker or thinner soup. A modern cook might choose another flavouring. I like this soup and will make it again but will probably add something other than celery salt as my seasoning.
CREAM OF POTATO SOUP
1 cup hot or cold potatoes, 1/2 slice onion, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon slat, 1 quart of milk, a little pepper; heat milk, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until smooth, stir in one half of the steaming milk and stir constantly until it boils, add the remaining milk, the onions minced finely and the seasonings, strain into hot soup tureen.