I purchased several bunches of asparagus at the Kitchener Market on Saturday. It was a wise decision as it turns out that my house guest David from Northern Ireland likes asparagus. He’ll even eat it raw. Tonight he selected Cream of Asparagus Soup from among the asparagus recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. This recipe was submitted by Mrs. H. D. McKellar.
I washed the bunch of asparagus and broke the tough ends from the stems. I scraped them a bit and then put them in a pot with 4 cups (1 quart) of boiling water. I let it boil for 20 minutes and then removed the stalks. I cut them as suggested and put everything back in the pot (except the tips). They continued to simmer away as I measured the milk and mixed the flour and butter. I’d never tried to thicken milk by adding the paste of butter and flour. I would normally start with butter and flour (a roux) in the pot and then add the milk. It worked but was more difficult to avoid lumps than starting with the roux. While the milk thickened I started sieving the asparagus. It really is an unappealing looking sludge but once added to the thick milk it was much nicer. I added the tips and salt and pepper before finally tasting the cream of asparagus soup.
Mrs. McKellar was probably Olga Rumpel the wife of Harry Dales McKellar. She’s the oldest sister of young Hilda Rumpel from yesterday. Their father George Rumpel was mayor of Berlin. Harry McKellar was a manufacturer of felt goods like Olga’s father. According to Waterloo Generations website Olga and Harry married at St. Peter’s Lutheran church in 1902 and had two children by the time the Berlin Cook Book was published. Harry was of Scottish heritage and Presbyterian while Olga remained Lutheran and was of German heritage. According to the 1911 census they live at 130 Frederick Street with their now four children and two teenage maids .
My taster really liked the asparagus soup. He went back for seconds! I thought it was okay. It is a bit milky for me but has a nice delicate taste of asparagus. This would be a good way to use asparagus that is a little tough or thick since the stringy bits are sieved out. I think it is well worth trying this soup and a modern cook could try some additional seasoning. Though it is important not to overpower the asparagus flavour.
CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
Wash and scrape one bunch of asparagus, cover with 1 quart of boiling water and boil for 20 minutes. Lift out the stalks, remove and set aside the tips, cut the stalks into inch pieces, return to the kettle and cook uncovered until very tender, then rub all through a sieve, scald 2 pint of milk in a double boiler, add 2 tablespoons of butter, rubbed to a paste with 2 tablespoons of flour and stir until thick and smooth, add the asparagus pulp and liquid and season to taste with salt and pepper, add the reserved tips and simmer for five minutes longer.