I decided it was time to try Mrs. H. Rathman’s recipe for Potato Balls in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
I didn’t have any leftover mashed potatoes so I made some. I boiled potatoes and mashed them and let them get cool. Then I mixed in the melted butter, salt and pepper, and the cream. Finally I added the egg yolk. I melted some lard in a small saucepan and took my usual precautions — lid and extinguisher nearby plus close attention to it at all times. I beat another egg for dipping and set out some bread crumbs. I made five small balls of the potato mixture and dipped each one in the egg and then rolled it well in the bread crumbs. I carefully dropped them into the hot lard and watched them closely. When they were starting to turn golden brown I removed them. Time to taste!
The first bite was interesting with a crisp outside and soft inside. The potato balls had a nice texture. However, the inside wasn’t as hot as I’d expect and they were a little bland. This recipe provides some flexibility. Next occasion I’d increase the time in the fat so that the inside was warmer and I’d add more salt and pepper to the potato mix. A modern cook might want to add some more flavouring to the potato filling but a little seasoning in the bread crumbs could improve things too. The look of these potato balls is appealing so they could be an interesting addition to a meal. However, the taste would have to be enhanced to make up for the less than healthy ingredients before I’d eat them again.
Based on the 1901 census Mrs. Rathman could be 53-year-old Katherine the wife of 63-year-old Herman Rathman a painter and finisher. Their 33-year-old son Hugo and 27-year-old daughter Amelia live with them. It is possible Hugo’s wife Melinda (nee Lippert) submitted the recipe as they are married by the 1912 census and have an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. This German Lutheran family lives on Brubacher street and Hugo is a fireman. The elder Rathmans are still living on Frederick street in 1912 and daughter Amelia is still living with them.
I’m not sure how this recipe fits into their life. I’m assuming it is a way to use up some leftover potatoes rather than making something fancy for company.
4 large mealy potatoes cold, mash them in a pan with 2 tablespoons fresh melted butter; a pinch salt, a little pepper, 1 tablespoon cream and the beaten yolk of an egg, rub mixture into balls, the size of a walnut, dip them into an egg well beaten, then into the finest sifted bread crumbs, fry them in boiling lard.