Day 369 To Fry Smelts

Today is Easter Sunday but it is also the last day of March. We’re already seeing signs of spring here in Kitchener. There have been robins and snowdrops and even a few crocuses blooming amid the snow piles. This is also, I’m told, the beginning of the season for smelt. This tiny fish has a fan base like none other. Typically people head out at night into the cold spring lake water wearing hip waders and carrying dip nets to scoop up this little six-inch fish. The season is very short, and I’ve heard the smelt run today is nothing like it was in the past when the water would be alive with silver fish.

A few months ago I happened to see a package of frozen smelt in a grocery store. I bought it since I wasn’t sure I would find fresh smelt and I wanted to try the To Fry Smelts recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book since they are part of my childhood memories. Smelt are tiny little fish that swarm near the shores of the Great Lakes. I grew up near Lake Huron and can remember a neighbour stopping by with a pail of smelt when I was small child about to go to bed. The world stopped as my parents prepared them and had a feast. It was a feast I didn’t join as I didn’t like fish. I still don’t like fish very well but I wanted to try making some of the fish recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I was with my family back in that same house for Easter so I had a supply of fish loving tasters. The perfect time to try the recipe called To Fry Smelts, a recipe contributed by Mrs. Simonds.

I rinsed some of the smelt in warm water and then patted them dry. The recipe calls for cutting off the fins but these were already “finless”. I mixed two egg yolks in a bowl with one tablespoon of butter and mixed flour and salt in another bowl. The third bowl contained the small amount of bread crumbs I had available. I melted shortening in a frying pan so that I could deep fry the smelt.

I took each smelt and rolled it in the salted flour and then dipped it in the egg yolk/butter blend. I rolled a few of the smelt in bread crumbs and the rest I rolled a second time in flour. I fried them until golden on both sides and drained on paper towel. I served the fried smelt (minus the parsley garnish)  to my family and I also bravely sampled one.

Mrs. Simonds has a number of seafood recipes in the Berlin Cook Book. She started life as Rosette H. Johnson before marrying Leonard Wells Simonds in   Rosette was born somewhere between 1849 and 1852 in the United States and immigrated to Canada in 1876. Leonard was also born in the US. They eventually had four daughters Evelyn, Edith, Daisy, Georgie and a son Leonard. The 1881 census shows the family living in Berlin Ontario with two children. Leonard works but the occupation isn’t legible. It’s at this point he patents some sort of button. The 1891 census shows him as a traveller. Mother and daughter lived alone at 37 Ahrens street in 1911. Rosette is listed as married rather than widowed but Leonard is not living in the household and the other children are gone. Have they all married? Cyrena (Daisy) was 20 when she married J. Frank Anthes in 1897.  Witnesses included J.C. Breithaupt and Fannie Thompson of Utica NY.  I have more detective work!

I can’t say I enjoyed the smelt but I did eat two and they were edible. I didn’t notice any fishy taste and they were easy to eat. The breaded coating was slightly better than the flour coating.  The fish lovers appreciated the smelt but said I should have put more salt in the flour. My brother says the frozen smelt were not as good as fresh. He says the fresh smelt are sweeter tasting. Therefore if you get your hands on some fresh smelt this spring prepare them quickly and if you don’t already have a favourite recipe than Mrs. Simonds’ recipe “To Fry Smelts” will get you started.

Mrs. Simonds
Wash, cut off the fins, and dry with a cloth, melt a spoonful of butter and into it stir the beaten yolks of two eggs, salt and flour the smelts a little, dip into the egg and butter, roll in grated bread crumbs and plunge into boiling fat, fry until of a light yellow-brown; serve upon a napkin garnished with fried parsley.

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Day 368 Grape Fruit Cocktail

Tonight my senses are alive with the smell, look, feel, and especially the taste of citrus. I attended the 6th annual Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus day. I’ve also heard all sorts of interesting stories about citrus fruit. I presented a workshop called ‘Citrus in 1906 Berlin Ontario’ based on the Berlin Cook Book. The participants sampled:

Thanks to the staff and garden volunteers at Waterloo Region Museum, the participants were able to see and taste a citron meIon and take home some seeds. I also turned them into my guinea pigs for tonight’s recipe Grape Fruit Cocktail contributed by the mysterious O. McK.

My first challenge in preparing the recipe for an audience was to determine the type of fruit juice. What did O. McK mean by fruit juice? I couldn’t imagine she, or perhaps he, pulling out a container of frozen fruit punch or a can of juice from the cupboard. I decided to try apple juice since apples are still in season in February and people could still get sweet cider (non alcoholic). I also bought some fresh grape fruit juice as well as some grape fruit.  Since grape fruit is in the recipe maybe that’s the intended juice? With a little research I discovered some other possibilities. On July 9, 1913 an advertisement for Schell Bros. grocers appeared in the Berlin News Record. Among the list of available goods were some listed as Very Specials including New Choice Lemons 2 for 5c, 30c per doz; Lemo or Orangeo per bottle 10 c; Lime juice per large bottle 25c; and raspberry vinegar 25 cents per bottle. I don’t have any raspberry vinegar (also known as shrub) at the moment and it is a concentrate so wasn’t an option. I’m not sure what Lemo or Orangeo contained. Was it a carbonated drink, a concentrate or a juice? Lime juice might be possible but my mouth puckered up at the thought of lime juice with grapefruit segments — quite the combination of sour flavours.

I bought small bottles of St. Remy brandy and some Canadian red wine. The brandy was an obvious choice since according to their website they’ve been around since 1886. I wasn’t sure whether to use red or white wine but other recipes in the Beverage section of the cook book mention claret. The next ingredient to consider was the sugar syrup. The beverage section does not contain a recipe. I decided to assume that this was going to be the same sugar syrup or simple syrup used by bars today to make cocktails, after all this recipe is for a cocktail. Again there were two options: a thicker syrup made by boiling 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, or a thinner syrup of 1 part sugar shaken with 1 part water until dissolved. I made the thicker syrup.

Next I had to consider the grape fruit. What sort of grape fruit was available in 1906? The contemporary newspapers seem to have oranges and lemons for sale year round but I didn’t notice grapefruit. My decision was made when only pink or red grapefruit are currently for sale in the grocery stores around me.

I have no information about O. McK.  My search of Waterloo Region Generations website turns up just five people with the first initial O and a surname starting with McK. They are all too young to have contributed this recipe — especially one containing alcohol. The temperance movement existed in Canada in 1906 with organizations like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union growing each year and providing an opportunity for many women to develop skills in political and social action. I was very surprised to see a cocktail recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. There are other recipes containing alcohol but none are called a cocktail. I learned a lot about the history and production of beverage alcohol when I worked at the Seagram Museum in Waterloo. One of the temporary exhibits was a wonderful look at the history of the cocktail including all the necessary equipment. I was sure I remembered the cocktail as  a 1920s creation. I couldn’t imagine the world of the cocktail existing in Berlin Ontario in 1906. Clearly I was wrong. It was time to share my discovery with others.

I packed my supplies and made my way to Fort York Historic Site in Toronto, setting up in the block house — a good place to test an alcoholic drink! The brave workshop participants sampled four preserves and the marmalade pudding before I started mixing their drinks. It wasn’t even noon yet so I made small drinks.  I put ice in each cup and then mixed the liquids in a jar. I put a piece of grapefruit in the cup and then poured in the liquid. We started with apple juice as the fruit juice component and then switched to using grapefruit juice after the first tasters mentioned it was a very sweet tasting drink. The grapefruit cut a bit of the sweetness but I started easing back on the sugar syrup. One participant suggested using a thinner sugar syrup next time.  Overall the tasters liked the drink. The brandy and wine didn’t overpower the fruit taste but like many other fruit based cocktails O. McK.’s Grape Fruit Cocktail was quite sweet. I think this recipe has time travelled rather well and can rejoin the ranks of fruit based cocktails like the Singapore Sling and the Daiquiri in bars and homes.

Somewhere I have a copy of  the exhibit catalogue for The Art of the Cocktail from that long ago Seagram Museum show. I wonder if it mentions a Grape Fruit Cocktail?

If you too are Mad for Marmalade or Crazy for Citrus, be sure to bookmark this site  for announcements in 2014 of the the next celebration of all things citrus. It is a great event with a wonderful mix of people sharing their love of food and/or history. We had a delicious lunch and all sorts of special treats featuring lemons, limes, or oranges. There were goodie bags and door prizes, a baking/preserving competition, workshops, demonstrations, and talks and did I mention the food?  In March and April I’ll be at several more events talking about the Berlin Cook Book and some include food too! Check out my Workshops/Events/Media page above for more information.

O. McK.
Into a glass nearly full with shaved ice, put 4 tablespoons of fruit juice, 2 of sugar syrup, 2 tablespoons of brandy and 1 tablespoon of wine. Stir well for a moment, then strain off into a cocktail glass, adding a small piece of solid grape fruit pulp.

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Day 367 Moka Cake

Surprise! I’m back. It’s been twenty-five days since I last posted or cooked from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I had intended to just take a few days off before starting to write once a week but I got sick. Later I just couldn’t get interested in it again. The cook book sat out and I ignored it. I suppose it isn’t surprising after spending 366 days getting to know this cook book intimately. I also associated it with some difficult times.

Today, I wanted something sweet. All the Christmas goodies are gone and I’ve been making do with some store-bought cookies but today I was ready to bake again. I planned to use my special Christmas gift — a turquoise Kitchen Aid stand mixer — to make cookies or brownies. And then finally I thought about the many untouched dessert recipes in the Berlin Cook Book. Perhaps I could use my fancy mixer to make something from it? But it just seemed wrong. Instead I pulled out my spoons and china cups and mixing bowl and got to work baking a cake 1906 style.

This recipe for Moka Cake was submitted by Mrs. George Baltzer for the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. The mixing method is interesting. It begins with blending eggs and sugar. My first task was to get some milk on to boil since I would need it later. Then I cracked my two medium eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them well. I slowly added the sugar and again beat the mixture. The flour and cream of tartar went in next. The mixture was quite thick at this point. I put the butter in the boiling milk and once it was melted I stirred in the salt and baking soda too. It was fun to see it bubble up. I poured in the hot milk and it blended well. The final ingredient was lemon but I wasn’t sure what was meant. Should I add lemon extract, or lemon juice? I finally decided to add some lemon zest. I grated the skin of about half a lemon. The batter went into a greased round cake pan. I only needed one cake pan as this is a small recipe. The cake baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

While the cake baked I started the filling. First I needed to make some coffee. I make terrible coffee but in this case it doesn’t matter as I just needed two teaspoons of strong coffee. I creamed the butter and icing sugar and then added the coffee, cocoa and vanilla. The mixture looked, smelled and tasted wonderful! I left the cake to cool before slicing it across the middle with a butter knife. This is one sturdy cake! I spread the filling on top of the bottom cake layer and then put on the top. The filling is the perfect amount. Finally it was time to cut a slice of cake and taste.

Mrs. George Baltzer was once known as Mary L. Penfold before her marriage in 1897. She was born in Paris Ontario in 1866. George was an insurance clerk when they married but by the 1901 census he was an accountant in Berlin. His widowed mother Lena continued to live in Berlin appearing in the 1911 census, but I hadn’t been able to find George and Mary. Today I found an internet site that states George died in January 1910 at 91 Queen Street North in Berlin Ontario. He was just 39 years old. So what happened to Mary? Did she remarry or move in with a relative back in Paris?

This cake is good but had a slightly rubber texture. It is a sponge style cake so it might be expected but perhaps it is also due to under or over mixing or perhaps it is intended to be a good sturdy cake. I think I might have over baked it a bit. I liked the lemon flavour and was surprised it combined so well with the filling which is wonderful. I highly recommend it if you like mocha flavours. I wonder if Mary (Penfold) Baltzer made it often or if it was reserved for special occasions. It is relatively easy to make and doesn’t require unusual ingredients or very much of the expensive ingredients. Mrs. George Baltzer’s Mocha Cake recipe was a very good way to return to 1906.

Mrs. George Baltzer
2 eggs beaten light, 1 cup sugar beaten in gradually, 1 1/2 cup flour with 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon soda, add last 1/2 cup of boiling milk into which has been melted 1 teaspoon butter, a little salt and lemon.
Filling — 1/4 cup butter creamed with 1 heaping cup icing sugar, 2 teaspoons of strong coffee, 2 teaspoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon vanilla, beat together and spread.

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Day 366 Devilled Crabs, Creamed Lobster, Pigs In Blanket, and Dressing for Raw Oysters

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 .  McIlhenny’s Tobasco Sauce is a little newer. It’s been around since 1868 according to their website

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.

My can of lobster

My can of lobster

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 The club was located at Broadway and Duane Street, Mutual Reserve Building. The following quote comes from a legal website  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?

This is the oyster I ate.

This is the oyster I ate.

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!

Devilled Crab

Devilled Crab

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.


Creamed Lobster

Creamed Lobster

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.

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 Blankets

Pigs in Blankets

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.

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Day 365 Baked Apple Dumplings and Sauce of Apple Dumplings

Two of my guests brought apple pie for our Christmas gathering.  We finally finished it today but soon there were cravings for another apple dessert so I am making Baked Apple Dumplings along with Sauce of Apple Dumplings. These recipes don’t have a contributor listed. They are part of a section in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book called Fruits in Various Ways.

I started by making the dough for the crust. I put four and a half cups of flour into a bowl and then added a tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt. I double checked the amount of butter since it seemed so small but it was correct — butter the size of an egg. Once the butter was rubbed in I started adding milk. It took over one cup of regular milk to create a suitable dough for rolling. I rolled out the dough even thinner than the 1/2 inch required as it seemed very thick. I cut the dough into squares with four-inch sides. I put five squares on a greased cookie sheet.

Next my sister and I started preparing the filling. I thought about whether my sister should be helping. Did that compromise my idea of cooking everyday from the Berlin Cook Book. But then, I realized that of course people often worked together to make something even in 1906. We peeled both sweet apples (Macintosh) and tart (Spy) to create a more complex flavour in the filling. I chopped the apples into small pieces and mixed the together before putting two tablespoons in the centre of the squares of dough. I sprinkled flour on top of the apples and placed bits of butter too. I put two tablespoons of sugar on each square and we decided to add both cinnamon and lemon as flavour.

It was easier than I expected to fold the dough around the filling. I took opposite corners and brought them together and did the same on the opposite side of the square. I then squeezed the seams to seal them. I covered the pan while we all went out to the park to see the lights. Unfortunately just as we left my book case of cook books collapsed. We enjoyed the lights but on our return we boxed the books and I continued getting the dumplings ready so we could have a nice warm treat.  I sprinkled sugar and bits of butter on top of each before pouring a cup of warm water around them on the pan. I baked the apple dumplings at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until they were beginning to brown.

While the dumplings baked I prepared the sauce. In a small saucepan, I creamed the butter and sugar and then added the flour. I stirred in the cream and finally mixed in the boiling water. I put the pan on the stove at low heat and kept stirring until everything was melted. Then I turned up the heat a bit and continued stirring as it thickened a bit. Once the dumplings were ready, I plated the with some sauce and we tasted.

Baked Apple Dumpling with sauce

Baked Apple Dumpling with sauce

The dumplings were too large for one each so I cut them in half and put the sauce around. They received mixed reviews. The crust was deemed cardboard by one person but others found it had a strange appeal. The filling was a hit. The sauce also was not appreciated by most of us. I had flavoured it with nutmeg and discovered several people don’t like that flavour. It was too milky for some people.

Make a crust of one quart of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, butter or lard the size of an egg, and a pinch of salt. Rub all together and add enough of sweet milk to make a middling stiff dough; roll out about half an inch thick and cut into square pieces the size of a large saucer. Place 2 or 3 tablespoons of finely chopped apples in the centre of the dough, sprinkle with a little flour, lay some little pieces of butter on the apples, add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to each dumpling, flavor with lemon or cinnamon, then draw up the corners of the dough and pinch the edges together. Put into a large flat pan, giving room to swell. Sprinkle a little sugar and a few bits of butter over the top and pour into the pan half a pint of warm water. Bake until a nice brown. Serve hot with hot pudding sauce. These puddings can be made smaller, each one just the size for one person.

One teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 a teacup of butter, 2 teaspoons of cornstarch or sifted flour, cream the butter and sugar together, and add the sifted flour and 3 tablespoons of sweet cream. Mix thouroughly [sic] and pour in slowly 1 teacup of boiling water, stirring constantly. Flavor with lemon or nutmeg and serve warm with the dumplings.

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Day 364 Escalloped Parsnips

Today I celebrated Christmas with my family at my home. It was so nice to be able to welcome everyone after cancelling so many family celebrations due to the work on the house. Family tradition says that after several turkey dinners it is time for ham instead. So I prepared ham and scalloped potatoes plus mashed potatoes for those who hate scalloped. I picked up some sweet potatoes and parsnips at the market this morning and they are on the menu too. The final touch is Escalloped Parsnips from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. B. Cowan. I selected parsnips that were local and likely to have been touched by frost. That makes them nice and sweet.

My sister was kind enough to peel the parsnips for me and then I cut off the tops and bottoms before putting them in a pan with water to boil. Once they were soft I put them in a casserole dish and poured in the prepared sauce and stirred. I’d made the sauce by melting two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour together before slowly adding two  cups (1 pint) of milk. I seasoned it with a few shakes from the salt and pepper shakers. Once everything was mixed I sprinkled the 1/4 cup of bread crumbs on top and dotted it with butter. The casserole dish went into the oven at 350 F. to bake alongside the other food already there. After twenty minutes I removed the escalloped parsnips. The top was beginning to brown and the sauce was bubbling. I served the escalloped parsnips along with the rest of the Christmas dinner and everyone had a taste.

Mrs. B. Cowan is a mystery. I can’t find a man with the initial B. in either the 1901 or 1911 census in the area and the Waterloo Region Generations website.

The first person to sample Escalloped Parsnips was my brother. He doesn’t like parsnips but he liked them. He thought the sauce contained cheese! The confirmed parsnip hater was brave enough to sample them but they didn’t convert him. Everyone else really liked the dish and my sister asked for seconds! The parsnips were naturally sweet and the sauce complemented them well. If your family enjoys scalloped potatoes you might want to give escalloped parsnips a try.

Mrs. B. Cowan
1 quart parsnips, 1 pint milk, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper to suit taste, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon butter, on top of other mixture. Cook parsnips then put them in a deep dish, put butter and flour in a frying pan add milk, and let just come to a boil, then pour over parsnips. Bake in oven 20 minutes.

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Day 363 Tea Biscuits

My family is arriving tonight from points east and south for another Christmas celebration tomorrow. No one is exactly sure when they will arrive so I have a beef stew slowly cooking on the back of the stove and plan to serve it with Mrs. E. Hollinger’s Tea Biscuits. Although there are a number of biscuit recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book, this is one I’ve not tried yet.

I measured the flour and then blended the three tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons of lard together. I rubbed in the fats into the flour. I added the salt and baking powder and started adding milk. I used over a cup of regular 1% milk. Once the dough was mixed and turned it into biscuits. I simply made balls and flattened them on a greased cookie sheet. The biscuits baked for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Mrs. E. Hollinger has lots of recipes in the cook book and some would have been useful at the hotel Mary and her husband Ed. ran in Waterloo. I think it explains the larger size of this recipe compared to some of the others in the cook book.

We enjoyed the biscuits with the stew. This is a very traditional style of tea biscuits. We have conflicting views on the biscuits as some said they were light while others thought they were dense. Everyone liked them and I even heard “they are delicious” especially with butter. They didn’t break up when dropped in the stew which is apparently a good thing.

Mrs. E. Hollinger
4 cups sifted flour, 3 tablespoons of butter, lard mixed and rubbed into flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt. Enough sweet milk to make a soft dough.

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