Today I’m making Dainty Onions. This recipe, contributed by Mrs. G. E. Potter, is the only onion recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. It calls for tiny green onions so I’ve been waiting anxiously to make it. Yesterday I bought some early onions at the Kitchener Market from a local vendor. Even at the market it is challenging sometimes to determine what is local and in season. Generally, if they are selling oranges, bananas or mangoes they are not selling local produce and probably are not selling things they grow themselves. Several of the farm vendors had this type of onion so I decided it was in season locally.
I washed and peeled the icky bits and then put the spring onions in a pot of boiling salted water for ten minutes as indicated in the recipe. Meanwhile I made my usual white sauce (tablespoon butter, tablespoon flour, cup of milk) and added salt, pepper and fresh parsley to it. When the onions were tender, I drained them and dished them up with the white sauce.
Mrs. G. E. Potter is likely Matilda Potter nee Oberlander. In the 1901 Berlin census George Potter (36) and his wife Matilda (33) are listed along with their 3-year-old son Alexander and servant Edith Ballige (20) who is Roman Catholic. By the 1911 census George Edward and wife Matilda are living at 22 Weber Street West with their children Alexander O. (13) and little one year old daughter Virginia. Their religious denomination is Lutheran although George was Presbyterian in the 1901 census. The household also includes two young people of German heritage 14-year-old Loyde Damm who isn’t listed as either a relative or servant is Evangelical, and 18-year-old Mary Weber who is a house maid and Roman Catholic. George is a hardware merchant and his heritage is listed as English. Matilda was born in New York state and is the daughter of German born parents the Reverend Alexander Oberlander and his wife Matilda. This means Mrs. G. E. Potter is the sister of two other contributors to the Berlin Cook Book — Meda Oberlander and the Reverend Frederick E. Oberlander! As I’d hoped, more and more connections are starting to appear among the contributors.
I’ve eaten spring onions (also known as scallions) in salads and in stir fries but never as the main attraction. I have eaten creamed baked onions but they were the full size onions not these dainty morsels. Mrs. Potter’s Dainty Onions are surprisingly good. The onions become milder and sweeter after cooking. They won’t convert onion haters but this is a great way to use up the thinnings from your row of onions or the rest of the spring onion bunch sitting in the fridge after you used two for a salad.
Take tiny, green onions, not thicker than lead pencil, serve them like asparagus, wash well 2 bunches, cut off tops and roots, tie in bunches and drop in boiling salted water, cook 10 minutes, this time for very young onions, longer time in proportion to size, drain, place on toast and pour over cream sauce flavored with parsley.