Wow, I did it! This is my 366th entry and time for a bit of a celebration since I achieved what I promised. For one year — a leap year — I have cooked, blogged, and researched every single day no matter what else happened. Every day I have dipped into the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and tried to enter the world of the women who contributed recipes for this one community cook book. Some sections of the cook book have received short shrift for a number of reasons. One section I barely touched was Fish and Oysters so for this final entry of this year-long challenge I am challenging myself to cook with and eat oysters, crab and lobster. I am making Mrs. Geo. Potter’s Devilled Crab, Mrs. Wieland of Montreal’s Creamed Lobster, Nettie B. Smith’s Dressing for Raw Oysters from the Archwright Club of New York, and Pigs in Blanket from Mrs. E. Hollinger’s recipe. It seems appropriate to make these things for New Years Eve since many people have such dishes on this special evening. I am going to a New Years Eve party and so I’ll have some people to help me sample these recipes since I have no way of knowing if they are good or just filled with seafood I’ve never eaten. I can’t stay long at the party since I am volunteering overnight at Out of the Cold (a local shelter system).
My first task was to get some eggs on the boil as several of the recipes call for hard boiled eggs. I also purchased some ingredients at the store including some of the seafood and Tobasco and Worcestershire sauces. Both of these sauces are very old products. Lea and Perrins has been making Worcestershire Sauce since the early 1800s according to their website http://www.leaperrins.com/history.aspx . McIlhenny’s Tobasco Sauce is a little newer. It’s been around since 1868 according to their website http://www.tabasco.com/mcilhenny-company/
I started by making the Dressing for Raw Oysters. I measured and mixed the vinegar, ground red pepper, ground black pepper, Tobasco sauce and chopped the chives. I couldn’t add the shallot as I forgot to buy one in my quick trip to the grocery store this afternoon. I used a bit of onion instead. It will be a little more harsh than a shallot but I hope will give the same flavour. I packed it into a container to take to the party along with the live oysters and oyster knife I bought at the store.
Next I mixed up the ingredients for the Devilled Crabs. I couldn’t get live or even whole crabs so I’m using frozen crab meat. I melted butter and flour and then added the cream. I chopped up the mushrooms and added them along with the chopped hard boiled eggs, salt and dry mustard powder. I like cheese so I added it instead of the lemon juice. the seasonings. Finally I measured and added the tabasco and Worcester sauces and the parsley. I mixed in the thawed crab. I had to buy a package of frozen crab meat — something not available in 1906 — instead of a live or even fresh crab. It’s also available canned. I warmed up the mixture at the party and served it with toast.
I moved on to making the Creamed Lobster. I put milk, flour, salt and pepper in a saucepan and once it boiled I added the mashed egg yolks, bread crumbs, parsley, and grated some nutmeg. Once mixed I removed from heat and took it to the party where I reheated and poured it over the canned lobster I finally found in my home town grocery store over Christmas. Apparently canned lobster is now frozen. I let mine thaw and took it to the party. I served it with toast.
I sliced the smoked bacon at home too and took the slices and toothpicks with me to the party. The final step for Pigs in Blanket was to shuck the live oysters I bought today. I took the box of oysters and shucking knife to the party and hoped either someone there knew what to do or that I could learn the technique quickly since I needed the oysters for both the Pigs in Blanket and to try the Dressing for Raw Oysters.
Mrs Geo. Potter is likely Matilda Oberlander — sister to Meda Oberlander the prolific contributor to this cook book and Alexander the St. Paul’s Lutheran minister in Berlin. Matilda had one child at the time the cook book was published and another a few years later. Her husband George Potter was a hardware merchant. The couple lived at 22 Weber street West. I made Mrs. E. Hollinger’s recipe for Tea Biscuits just a few days ago. Mary and her husband Ed ran a hotel.
Back in September I made Mrs. Weiland of Montreal’s Macaroni and Cheese. I suspect that the Mrs. Wieland who contributed the lobster recipe is the same person. I wonder if Mrs. William Weiler of Baden is the same person as Mrs. Weiler of Montreal. The first Mrs. Weiler’s husband worked in the Livingston oil mill in Baden. Did the family move to Montreal? They are still here in the 1911 census along with a few more children. The 1911 census doesn’t have any Weilers or Wielers in Quebec.
This is the first time I’ve made a recipe contributed by Nettie B. Smith. There is a Nettie Smith in the 1911 census in Berlin Ontario but she is the wife of a Norman Smith and she’s just 24 years old. I wonder if a married woman would be using her first name. In the Waterloo Generations website Norman is married to Nelda D. Kleeberger so I don’t think this is the right person. Could Nettie actually be associated with the club? It is interesting that the recipe also mentions the Archwright Club in New York. I think the actual spelling of the club is Arkwright. Here’s a 1907 banquet menu from the Arkwright Club http://menus.nypl.org/menus/24362 The club was located at Broadway and Duane Street, Mutual Reserve Building. The following quote comes from a legal website http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=1954528117FSupp411_1427.xml&docbase=CSLWAR1-1950-1985 and explains the membership of the Arkwright Club which was originally founded as a social club back in 1893.
Any male person, twenty-one years of age and of good character, was eligible to membership in the club, but all of its 1,088 members, resident and nonresident, except 67, were connected with the textile industry. It was used primarily at the luncheon hour, and to a much lesser extent in the late afternoon. Members met for luncheon either to discuss business or for social intercourse, as they might choose. Members met in the afternoon either for business or for social intercourse. Ladies were admitted to the club, but there were no private quarters for them other than a powder room.
I wonder how this recipe ended up in the Berlin Cook Book?
Fortunately the guests at the New Years Eve party were a brave and hearty group. They were willing tasters. One man put the recipes in order of preference. He liked the devilled crabs best, then the pigs in blanket and finally the creamed lobster. I couldn’t convince anyone to try eating a raw oyster so I my view is the only one. Yes, I ate a raw oyster! In fact I had to teach myself how to shuck oysters in order to make the pigs in blanket and to taste the raw oyster. I was shocked that I really really liked the raw oyster plain and the dressing was good too. Everyone liked the devilled crab with toast or on crackers. One person said the only fault with it was that there wasn’t a spoon available to eat it!! I didn’t mind the devilled crab and the creamed lobster either but I’d eliminate the egg. As regular readers know I don’t like eggs. I’m using my hosts’ computer so I’ll post the pictures tomorrow.
So I am sitting in a 1906 house at the moment with the buzz of conversation around me as old friends and new ones chat with each other. I always love this party as the conversations range all over the place. Were there new years eve parties in 1906? Did people eat things like I made tonight? Obviously these recipes existed then so it is possible. The devilled crabs might have been served at suppers after a dance or even for a lunch for a group of women. The creamed lobster would be the same. Oysters were shipped in barrels to Berlin Ontario to serve the needs of individual homes and organizations hosting oyster suppers, especially in December. I’ve followed tradition by having several different oyster dishes tonight. And …. I met another challenge! I learned to shuck an oyster and to eat it raw!
Thank you all for reading and commenting whether you started back with me 366 days ago on January 1st or if you found this blog more recently. I’ve enjoyed learning from and with you as we explored the world of Berlin Ontario in 1906 and celebrated cityhood one hundred years ago in 1912. And never forget that the recipes of the past can be used an enjoyed anytime.
Happy New Year!
Mrs. Geo. E. Potter
6 crabs, 3 or 4 mushrooms, 2 hard boiled eggs chopped fine, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon flour, cook thoroughly, add 1 cup cream, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and mustard, and either 2 tablespoons grated cheese or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 drops Tobasco sauce, 1 teaspoon parsley, minced and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
Mrs. Wieland, Montreal
1/2 pint milk, 1 tablespoonful flour, salt, pepper, let come to a boil, then add yolks of hard boil eggs mashed, 2 tablespoonsful bread crumbs, 1/4 grated nutmeg, parsley cut fine, put over can of lobster while hot, and garnish with strips of toast.
DRESSING FOR RAW OYSTERS
Archwright Club New York, Nettie B. Smith
1/2 pint vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper, 1/ teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon “Tobasco sauce, 2 chives chopped fine, 1 shallot, chopped fine. Serve in small sauce boat or bowl. Dip on to the oysters in the half shell.
PIGS IN BLANKET
Mrs. E. Hollinger
Season large oysters with salt and pepper, cut very thin slices of bacon, trim off rind and smoked edge, wrap each oyster in a slice of bacon and fasten with a small wooden skewer put in a hot omelet pan and cook just long enough to crisp bacon. Serve on small pieces of toast.