Today is the first official day of spring so I thought I would make a salad suitable for the season. I selected Mrs. H. Rathman’s Celery Salad on page 101 of the 1906 Berlin Cook Book as it seemed unusual. According to a grocer’s manual, celery is best between January and March so my choice is timely.
I decided to make a third of the recipe so I washed one head of celery and boiled it in salted water for 25 minutes. After draining the celery stalks, I peeled them (a tedious process) and cut them into slices. I wasn’t sure how thin to cut the slices but I think this is one of those personal choice area. I let the celery cool while making the dressing. I decided to make the entire amount of dressing since I can use it for other salads. I melted about a tablespoon of butter and mixed it with the 2 tablespoons of sour cream. I decided to use commercial sour cream which created a thicker dressing. I chose to add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and a pinch of salt to the mixture. I added some to the celery and sampled Mrs. H. Rathman’s salad.
German born Herman Rathman emigrated to Canada when he was 14 years old. Katherine Kraemer’s parents were born in France but she identified her heritage on the census as German. They probably came from one of the regions that changed hands between the two countries. The Rathmans had three children August, Hugo and Amelia — the two youngest were still living with them in 1901. The family’s religion is listed Lutheran. Herman was a painter and later a finisher, Amelia was a clerk in an office, and Hugo was a firefighter. It is possible that Mrs. H. Rathman is the wife of Hugo Rathman instead. She was Melinda Lippert and the couple had two children by the time this cookbook is published in 1906. They were on Brubacher street in 1911 and Hugo’s parents Herman(age 73) now retired and Katherine (age 64) are living at 91 Frederick street with their youngest daughter.
I don’t know if it was Melinda Rathman or Katherine Rathman who contributed the recipe for Celery Salad but she deserves thanks. Wow! This salad is good. The combination of cooked (but slightly crisp) celery and the sour cream dressing is delicious and surprising. This is a very flexible recipe for a modern cook. The vinegar can be increased or additional flavourings added. Other vegetables could be included with the celery. I highly recommend this simple celery salad and imagine the Rathman’s enjoying it in 1912 too.
Boil 3 heads celery till tender, peel and cut in thin slices, heat butter size of a walnut, a little salt and a little vinegar, and 2 large tablespoons of sour cream.