I decided to make Boston Cream today. Sadly this isn’t going to be a nice creamy dessert. Instead it is a rather strange-sounding beverage. There are at least four versions of this recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Tonight I’m going to try the one contributed by Armina Mager. Her recipe seems the easiest to reduce in size and I don’t think I’m going to want gallons of this as it is another of the raw egg white recipes a modern cook should use with caution.
I’m making one-quarter of the recipe so I measured 4 cups (1 quart) of water and 2 cups (1 pint) of sugar into a saucepan and set it to boil for 15 minutes. I put the sugar-water in the modern icebox (the fridge) to cool although it is almost cold enough tonight to set it outside. While it cooled I separated one medium egg and started beating the white. Yes, I know that is not one-quarter of the recipe but a slightly smaller amount of egg will make me happy. I had been postponing making this recipe as I can’t find tartaric acid. I am substituting cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate ) since it comes from tartaric acid. I might have to add more cream of tartar than the 3 tablespoons (1 ounce) of tartaric acid in the recipe. I also added the lemon extract (1/8 of an ounce) by taste more than anything although I started with about and 1/8th of a teaspoon. I mixed the egg white, cream of tartar and lemon into the sugar syrup and then prepared to taste.
I can’t find Armina Mager. Although there are people with this surname in both the 1901 and 1911 census but not in this area and the family listed in the Waterloo Generations website doesn’t appear to be this woman’s family either.
I followed the directions for preparing the drink. I filled a glass half full with the Boston Cream and then filled the rest of the glass with water. I added a pinch of baking soda and stirred. This is a strange-looking drink. It is foamy on top like a beer or ice cream float but the liquid below is almost clear. However, upon tasting I realized why I like cooking with old recipes — occasionally there are pleasant surprises like this. I truly felt like I’d time travelled as I’ve never tasted anything like Boston Cream. It is very sweet and a bit thick but the hint of lemon and the bit of tingle on the tongue make it worth tasting. I suppose one analogy is sweet alka seltzer. This must have been popular. Imagine a world where pop (soda) is not easily available in homes. Boston Cream gives a hint of that fizz that makes pop so popular and it certainly has sugar! A modern cook could make this with pasteurized egg whites to make it safer. I think I’ll try another glass tomorrow with a little less syrup and a little more water. But in the meantime I’ll toast Miss Mager (the mystery contributor) with my glass of Boston Cream.
4 quarts water, 4 pints sugar, 4 ounces tartaric acid, 1/2 ounce of essence of lemon, 5 eggs (whites). Boil water and sugar for 15 minutes, when cold add acid, lemon and whites, beaten to a stiff froth. Bottle and keep in a cold place.
To drink – Take 1/2 of a tumbler, fill with water and add a pinch of soda.