It is time to tackle the section on Cheese in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I selected one of the four recipes for Welsh Rarebit (p. 124). This one was submitted by 37-year-old Mrs. C. Everett Hoffman. She was Wilhelmine (Minnie) Pattison and married Charles Everett Hoffman in 1888. In the 1901 census she identifies her ethnic heritage as “Scotch” and her religion as Church of England (Anglican in the 1911 census). He was a druggist in Berlin and sadly he died in 1910 of diabetes. Thanks to the amazing website generations.regionofwaterloo.ca for supplying more details. In the 1911 census the newly widowed Minnie Hoffman has a housekeeper named Nellie who emigrated from England just a year earlier. Nellie estimates she works 50 hours per week. Minnie lists her means of living as “income”.
I love cheese but I must be careful about the amount I eat. It has been many years since I ate Welsh Rarebit and I have only vague memories of this melted cheese dish. In self-preservation, I decided to make half the recipe. I used a medium Canadian cheddar coloured orange. There is a very long history of colouring cheese. The colour of milk varied during the season depending on what the cows were eating. Cows eating fresh spring grass produced milk that was more yellow and any cheese made with that milk was a deep yellow colour.
I started by weighing the cheese so that I had a 1/2 pound and then sliced it thinly. I don’t have a chafing dish so I created a double boiler with a saucepan of water and a glass bowl. Half a teaspoon butter quickly melted in the bowl and I added the cheese next. It took longer to melt than I expected. I add regular prepared mustard and some cayenne pepper plus one beaten egg. I was afraid the egg would turn into scrambled eggs but it mixed into the cheese smoothly. How much is a tumbler? I ended up adding about 3/4 cup of ale to the melted cheese to get a mixture the consistency of thick cream. I spooned the mixture over some buttered toast. I don’t know what Welsh rarebit biscuits would look like but I’m wondering if it is a large thick cracker.
I don’t think I’ll make this recipe again for myself but might consider adapting it for vegetarian guests. I could taste egg which was a negative for me. A modern cook might increase the amount of cayenne pepper to give the Welsh rarebit a bit more zest. My mustard was probably too mild as well. I decided not to add catsup (ketchup) but a good ketchup/catsup might increase the flavour.
Take 1 pound new cheese cut fine and thin, 1 teaspoon choice butter, 1 tablespoon mixed mustard, 1/2 tumbler ale or beer, 2 eggs, a dash of cayenne pepper, melt the butter and add the cheese, when nearly melted add mustard, pepper and eggs well beaten. Stir constantly, and when all is well blended add the ale, and stir till the consistence of thick cream. Serve at once between two Welsh rarebit biscuits, or on hot buttered toast. If desired a little tomato catsup may be added. This makes a quantity sufficient for five people. If a chafing dish is not used, cook in a double boiler.