With Turkey Day approaching, I wanted to share some historic cooking videos and resources to get us in the mood. Prepare to be hungry!
Let’s start a historic turkey showdown, 1796 style! The guys over at Townsends did a turkey cook-off last year, comparing two types of historic turkey cooking methods. Baked versus open-fire cooking: which one wins? Check it out:
Which turkey would you rather eat? Were you worried about Jon’s sleeves touching the raw turkey?! Or is that just me?
For a more modern turkey recipe, try Fannie Farmer’s original 1896 recipe, including chestnut stuffing and gravy!
Desserts: The Most Important Part
That’s enough dinner, now it’s time for dessert!
Mount Vernon provided a short and sweet video on an 18th century pumpkin pie a few years ago:
Ok, maybe not so sweet with molasses instead of sugar! The blogger Presidentress made the recipe, with mixed results. She definitely helps set expectations. The grittiness gives me pause…
The lack of eggs is also unusual. I couldn’t find a historic recipe online without eggs, including on the Mount Vernon site or in their referenced cookbooks. Even Amelia Simmons used eggs in her recipe (see links below and this video). As does this Kentucky frontier recipe from 1839 (though more as a binder than to create a custard). Do you know of another eggless pureed pumpkin pie recipe?
If you prefer pecan pie, Max at Tasting History has us covered:
I like the idea of a pecan pie with less “goo” and more pecans! Personally, I’m a picky food texture person and prefer apple pie for Thanksgiving over custard-based pumpkin pie or gooey pecan. What about you? Which holiday pie is your favorite?
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases of items marked “affiliate link” below.
Ready to get your historic cooking game on and connect with your ancestors? Here’s a quick rundown of the cookbooks mentioned in the article and videos:
Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery from 1796. Considered the first American cookbook, it is a petite volume that gives us a window into late 18th century American/Colonial cooking. You can grab a reprint of the classic from Amazon [affiliate link] or Townsends themselves. Or, for free, Michigan State University has provided a digital scan.
Mount Vernon’s site mentions two cookbooks that have survived from the Washington’s 18th century estate: Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1765 edition) and a collection of Martha’s “receipts” or recipes going back into the 17th century(!).
Hannah was a British author whose book was extremely popular in the Colonies. It was groundbreaking for its “plain” tone and introduction of exotic foods like curry. And it was infamous for its plagiarism (common at the time) and its anti-French sentiment (also a common for an 18th-century Brit). You can find a reprint of the 1765 edition on Amazon [affiliate link] or a digital scan of the original 1747 edition on archive.org.
Delightfully, Martha’s collection of recipes has been collated and annotated in Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, edited by Karen Hess. Karen has thankfully added notes to help guide us through the arcane recipes. Grab a copy of this treasure from Amazon [affiliate link]. The original is held by the Historical Society of Philadelphia. Alas, I couldn’t find a full digital version but you can see some photos in their blog.
19th & 20th Centuries
The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan from 1839. This features over 1300 recipes! Unrelated but I feel like Lettice may also be a relative of the Boone/Bryan family–do any of the Boone researchers have info? To check out this treasure trove, a reprint of the 1839 edition is available from Amazon [affiliate link]. An 1839 edition digital scan is available from Google Books.
Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book from 1896. The legendary cookbook that helped set the standards we still cook with today. At last, there were real measurements and not just ingredient lists without amounts! We had a more modern version in my family’s kitchen. More than once, my parents asked the question, “What does Fannie say?” 😀
Amazon has a reprint of Fannie’s original 1896 edition [affiliate link] or the digital scan is available from Michigan State University.
Max’s Pecan Pie recipe appears to be from the March 24, 1914, issue of the Christian Science Monitor, based on the Food Timeline. Sadly, the Library of Congress does not list a copy near me and somehow not everything is readily available on the internet. If anyone digs up the original, let me know!
Happy Cooking and Bon Appétit!
What are your favorite family Thanksgiving traditions? Will you try any of these recipes? Let me know below!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!