Today marks the beginning of the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada. Thanksgiving has had a very mobile history in Canada. We’ve been celebrating it on the second Monday in October for about sixty years but previously it might occur in November, October, or even as a church festival called Harvest Home in September. To help you with your Thanksgiving meals this weekend I thought I’d make Mrs. Welbur’s Succotash and Magdeline Scheiterle’s Sweet Potato Croquetts recipes from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book today.
I have never made nor eaten succotash and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. I’ve heard of it … mainly in a cartoon with a character saying “suffering succotash” and for some reason I think of it as something American and some how associated with Thanksgiving. I’d hoped to make succotash using fresh corn and fresh lima beans but I haven’t been able to find the lima beans. I did find quick frozen lima beans so I’m going to substitute them. They are also available canned if you can’t find the beans people love to hate (even if they’ve never eaten them). I love sweet potatoes and now that I’ve made various other croquettes I suspect that I will love sweet potato croquettes too. I’d always thought of sweet potatoes as an American food. I didn’t realize they grew in Ontario until I started seeing them labelled locally grown at farmers’ markets .
I started with the Sweet Potato Croquettes by preparing the sweet potatoes. I scrubbed them, pricked some holes in them with a fork and then put them directly on the oven rack. The potatoes baked for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile I started preparing the Succotash. I measured the appropriate amounts of corn — 2 cups (1 pint) and lima beans — 1 cup (1/2 pint) and put them in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water at medium heat. It simmered for 20 minutes to reach tender. I added a tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 cup 1% milk and let it cook just a little longer before serving.
When the sweet potatoes finished baking I left them to rest and cool before peeling. I realized that I’m more accustomed to boiling sweet potatoes. The baked ones certainly smell good. Once they were peeled I mashed them and measured 2 cups. This turned out to be two sweet potatoes. I mixed in the butter, chopped celery, pepper, celery salt, parsley but decided not to add the egg. I don’t like eggs and I was concerned the mixture would be too wet for making into croquettes. I didn’t have any onion juice so I added some grated onion and then started forming the mixture into small balls. Into a small bowl, I beat an egg and added a tablespoon of water. In another bowl I put some bread crumbs. Using a fork I dipped the balls into the egg until coated and then transferred to the crumbs. I carefully rolled them in the crumbs.
Time for deep-frying. I chose to use shortening but this is a chance for a modern cook to use heart healthy oils since the recipe does mention oil. I put two cups of shortening in a saucepan and let it melt. I checked that all my safety precautions were ready since I am always nervous when I deep fry. I had baking soda, a lid to cover the pan and a fire extinguisher handy. I carefully set the croquettes into the fat and watched them bubble away. Once they were browned I removed them to drain and then served.
Magdeline Scheiterle contributed her recipe all the way from Cullman Alabama. I’m still not sure what how she connected to Berlin and the cook book other than her community also had many people with German ancestry. Mrs. Welbur is also a mystery. I can’t find her either in the census or Waterloo Region Generations. It is possible her name was misspelled. Whoever these women were, and how they came to contribute recipes to the Berlin Cook Book, I’m glad they made the effort. Their recipes turned out well.
What a surprise! I actually liked the succotash. I had expected to find it tolerable but I think I’d eat this again. Perhaps it just the taste of butter and salt that I like but I also liked the crunchy corn and softer lima bean combination. Neither flavour was as overpowering as I’d expected. If you chose to serve this to others, don’t tell them it is lima beans. For some reason people have an aversion to even the name.
I had high expectations for the sweet potato croquettes since I’d tasted the mixture before forming it into balls. By the way, I never missed the egg. The balls formed easily and I liked the croquettes — after all they are deep-fried and as fairgrounds everywhere are learning you can deep fry almost anything and people will eat it. As a modern cook I think I’d skip the deep-frying and simply serve the sweet potatoes with the same additional ingredients. It is a very good combination and takes away some of the cloying sweetness often found with sweet potatoes. The bread crumbs could be sprinkled on top and the dish given a quick browning in the oven. I was also considering trying to bake the croquettes in the oven instead of deep-frying.
I’m not sure I can convince my family to do away with our traditional fare this Thanksgiving but if yours is open to new things then give Succotash or Sweet Potato Croquetts a try. It might be new to your family but the recipes date back over one hundred years! Also remember this is the last weekend many historic sites are open across Ontario. Some close for the season right after Thanksgiving. Get out and visit your favourite museum or historic place before it is too late this year … or perhaps ever.
1 pint green corn, cut from the cob and 1/2 pint of Lima beans, let them stew in just enough water to cover them until tender, then season with butter, pepper and salt, a little milk, simmer together a few moments and serve.
SWEET POTATO CROQUETTS
Bake the potatoes, remove skins and mash, for each 2 cups sweet potatoes use 2 tablespoons butter, 3/4 teaspoon celery, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon celery salt, 1/4 teaspoon onion juice, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley, 1 egg or 2 yolks, mix all ingredients and when cold form into croquetts any desired shape, beat an egg and add to it 1 tablespoon water; dip the croquetts in the egg roll them in fine bread crumbs, and fry in deep fat or oil.