by Sandra Merville Hart
One of the fun things I get to do as an author of historical novels is search through old recipe books for the time period that I’m writing. I include those dishes in my novels. “Spies of the Civil War” is my current series. Onion soup is one the dishes served in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The hero is a talented baker and our heroine works as his assistant. 😊
A recipe for onion soup in an 1877 cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, was provided by a cook with the initials of E. W. W.
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 small potato
1 cup milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Peel and slice the onions. (I used yellow onions.)
Heat a large saucepan of water over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil while you continue with the recipe.
Stir 1 cup milk and 1 cup water together in a saucepan and heat to boiling. (An alternative is to use 2 cups of milk for an even creamier soup. Delicious!)
Melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the flour, which will thicken the soup. Then add the onions to the skillet. Sauté the onions, stirring often, for at least ten minutes over medium heat, until the onions are softened.
While the onions cook, peel and grate one small potato. Set aside.
Pour the cooked onions into a large metal mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling milk. Set the mixing bowl over the pan of softly boiling water to mimic a double boiler (or use a double boiler if you have one.)
Add the grated potato, salt, and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. The soup will be creamy. Stir occasionally as it cooks.
Remove the metal mixing bowl carefully from the heat because it will be hot. Stir in a ¼ cup of heavy cream.
I must admit I’m not a big fan of onion soup, but this creamy soup is delicious. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my lunch! This soup wasn’t hot—as in spicy hot—and there was a hint of sweetness.
If you’d like an even creamier version of the onion soup, don’t mix any water with the milk, as noted.
This is the best onion soup I’ve ever eaten. I will make it again.
I’d love to hear if you try it.
Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.