Old-fashioned Cream of Onion Soup Recipe

cream of onion soup

There’s starting to be a nip in the air; a few trees are turning lovely hues of red and yellow, and the days are getting shorter. Autumn is here – and I had a sudden urge to make soup.

I found a lovely  hundred-year-old recipe for Cream of Onion Soup. The soup was rich and creamy with flecks of onions. The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of pepper which gave the Cream of Onion Soup a delightful peppery undertone.

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), March, 1916
Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), March, 1916

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cream of Onion Soup

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Difficulty: moderate
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5 onions, sliced (approximately 3 cups)

1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup butter

4 cups water

4 sprigs parsley

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 cups milk

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup cream

Melt 1/4 cup butter in large saucepan, add sliced onions and saute until the onions are soft and semi-transparent (but not browned).  Add water and parsley, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven, using medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter; then stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add the milk while stirring constantly; then add the pureed onion mixture.

In a small mixing bowl, beat egg yolks; add cream and stir to blend. Add a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of onion mixture and  stir quickly to prevent the egg from coagulating. Then stir the egg and cream mixture into the onion mixture in the dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and then serve.

Browned Whole Onions Recipe

Browned Onions

I found a hundred-year-old recipe for Browned Whole Onions that is lovely with a hearty pot roast, game, or other flavorful meat. The onions’ robust flavor nicely complements the meat.

These onions are firmer than the sliced browned onions that are often served today–and they are not at all like the breaded onion “flowers” that restaurants sometimes serve. Instead they have a delicate outer browned layer, and firmer but delicious inner layers.

Here’s my modern adaptation of the old recipe:

Browned Whole Onions

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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8 medium onions

1 teaspoon salt + 1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil

1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Peel onions, place in a large saucepan, cover with water, then add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain onions.

In the meantime combine the flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Dust the onions with the flour mixture.

Place the bacon drippings or olive oil in an oven-proof skillet, then add onions.  Pour 1/2 cup water into the pan along the edge. Place pan in oven and bake for  approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and gently turn and roll the onions in the dripping in the bottom of the pan. If needed, add additional water. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  (The amount of time is dependent upon onion size. Larger onions may need to be rolled in the drippings a second time and cooked a little longer.) Remove from oven, and place browned onions in serving dish.

Add 1/2 cup water to the drippings in the skillet, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any flour or cooked pieces of onion. Place on a burner, and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook a few minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly. Spoon the “gravy” over the onions and serve.

Here is the original hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (February, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (February, 1916)

Scotch Potatoes (Scalloped Potatoes and Onions) Recipe

Scotch Potatoes

Brrr, it’s cold outside and I’m ready for some comfort foods. When I saw a recipe for Scotch Potatoes in the January, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal, I just had to try it.

Scotch Potatoes are very similar to Scalloped Potatoes, but they contain a lot more onions. The recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of potatoes and onions (2 cups potatoes and 2 cups onions).

This recipe was a winner, and I may never make regular scalloped potatoes again. Scotch Potatoes wonderfully pairs the creamy potatoes with the sweet, bright, complex flavor and texture of the onions to create a lovely taste sensation.

The recipe I typically use for Scalloped Potatoes just has me put the raw potato slices into the casserole dish and then pour white sauce over it. When I bake that casserole I often struggle to get the potatoes tender before the top gets overly brown. One of my favorite things about the Scotch Potatoes recipe is that I had no issues with a burned top and under-cooked potatoes.

This recipe called for boiling the potatoes and onions for a few minutes before putting them into the baking dish. This worked perfectly—and I now wonder why I never thought of doing this before.

Scotch Potatoes (Scalloped Potatoes and Onions)

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced (approx. 2 cups)

4 medium onions, sliced (approx. 2 cups)

water

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400° F. Put the sliced potatoes and onions into a saucepan, and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In the meantime, make a white sauce by melting the butter in another saucepan. Stir in the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. While stirring constantly, slowly add the milk. Continue stirring until the mixture is hot and begins to thicken.

Place the cooked potatoes and onions in a baking dish. Pour the white sauce over them, and put into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and the top begins to brown. Remove from oven and serve.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)

I didn’t make my potato and onion slices as thick as the slices called for in the original recipe. Mine were about 1/4 inch thick, and they worked beautifully in the updated recipe.

Old-Time Cucumbers and Onions Recipe

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, August 15, 1911: Went to Watsontown this afternoon to get some nick-knacks to take to the picnic. Makes me to mad Carrie isn’t going after all our planning. I have a presentiment that perhaps no one will be there except its originator, but the morrow alone can tell.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What could nick-knacks for a picnic have been? . . . Crepe paper? . . . paper nut cups? Neither of these items seems exactly like a nick-knack or right for a picnic, and they may not have even existed a hundred years ago.

Why isn’t Grandma’s friend Carrie Stout going to come? Carrie had been involved in the planning since the very beginning. Did Grandma and Carrie have a disagreement? Was Carrie grounded for some reason?

I wonder if Grandma had begun to makes foods for the picnic. An excellent old-time food for a picnic in August is Cucumbers and Onions.

Cucumbers and Onions

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

2 cups cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup onion, sliced

Stir together the vinegar, sugar, and water in a large bowl. Add cucumber and onion; gently stir to coat vegetables with liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This is one of my favorite old recipes. I frequently make Cucumbers and Onions during the late summer and early fall. The vinegar, sugar, and water are in a 1:1:1 proportion—and, depending upon how many cucumbers and onions I have, I will vary the amount of syrup that I mix up. The liquid should almost cover the vegetables. (Many old recipes are based on easy to remember proportions and were never written down.)

It is okay if there is a layer or so of the sliced cucumbers and onions above the liquid because after a few hours the amount of liquid will increase as some of the liquid comes out of the vegetables.