Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tidbits About Thanksgiving

Since we celebrated Thanksgiving a couple days ago, I thought it might be fun to share a 19th Century Thanksgiving Menu. How did your Thanksgiving menu compare?

Oyster Soup.
Celery, Pepper Sauce.
Roast Turkey, with Currant Jelly.
Baked Potatoes.
Mashed Turnips.
Roast Pig.
Carrots with Cream.
Baked Beans.
Chopped Cabbage.
Pumpkin Pie.
Plum Pudding.
Tea and Coffee.

For the table I prefer a white cloth with fancy border, and napkins to match. A dash of color livens up the table so, in the bleak November, when flowers cannot be had in profusion. Casters in the center, of course, flanked by tall celery glasses. At each end, glass fruit dishes filled with apples and nuts. A bottle of pepper sauce near the casters, and a mold of jelly by the platter of turkey, and small side dishes of chopped cabbage garnished with rings of cold : boiled eggs. The purple cabbage makes the handsomest-looking dishes. Serve the soup from tureens into soup dishes, handing around to the guests. After this comes the pi├Ęce de resistance, “Thanks iving turkey.” A piece of dark meat with a spoonful of £ and one of white with a bit of jelly and a baked potato (I should prefer a spoonful of mashed) should be served on each plate, leaving the other vegetables to be passed afterward with the roast pig. After this the salad, and then should be taken away and the dessert served. Then come the apples and nuts, the tea and coffee, well seasoned with grandpa's old-time stories, grandma's quaint sayings and kind words and merry repartees from all.
Below I give some recipes for these old-fashioned dishes, hoping they may because to some young housekeeper, preparing, perhaps, her first thanksgiving dinner:
Oyster Soup.–Pour the liquor from 1 qt. of oysters, set over the fire with
1 pt. of boiling water; skim when it boils up, and add 1 qt. of sweet milk; when it again boils up, stir in 2 tea-spoonfuls of butter rubbed in 1 of flour; then add the oysters, and salt and pepper to your taste; let it boil only a minute or two, and serve in a hot tureen. See, also, that the soup dishes are well warmed before sending to table.
Roast Turkey.—Make a stuffing of moistened bread-crumbs, rubbed smooth, with salt, pepper and powdered ": Fill the breast and body, and sew it up with a needle and coarse thread. Put in the oven in a pan with a little water, basting it often. A turkey weighing 12 lbs. should roast at least 3 hours. Having washed the heart, liver and gizzard, boil them an hour or so in a saucepan; to make the gravy chop the # fine; put them back in the water in which they were boiled; add flour, rubbed smooth, in a little water; boil a minute or two, and serve in a gravy boat.
Roast Pig.–Sprinkle inside with fine salt an hour before it is put into the oven; cut off the feet at the first joint; fill it very full of stuffing, with plenty of sage in it; tie the legs; rub it all over with butter to keep it from blistering; baste very often while roasting. It will require about 2% hours to roast. Make gravy as for other roasts.
Carrots with Cream.—Boil very tender with plenty of water, when done slice into a saucepan with a gill of cream; let them boil up once; salt and pepper to taste, and serve in hot nappies (side dishes).
Boston Baked Beans.—Take # of white beans, wash and soak over night in 2 or 3 qts of water; in the morning pick them over and boil until they begin to crack open; put them in a brown pan; pour over them enough of the water in which they have been boiled to nearly cover them. Cut the rind of a pound of salt pork into narrow strips; lay the pork upon the top of the beans and press down nearly even with them, bake some 4 or 5 hours.
"Pumpkin Pie.—Stew a kettle full of pumpkin and press it through a colander. For a quart of the stewed pumpkin use about a pint or a little more of sweet milk, 2 cups of sugar, 3 eggs and a tea-spoonful of ginger; bake in a crust in a deep pie plate.
Remarks.—The plum pudding will be found in another part of the book; also salads, sauces or any other thing that may be desired upon Thanksgiving, or most other important occasions.

Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 41 years. Lynn's latest novel "The Shepherd's Betrothal" is the third book in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series.

Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.


  1. Wow! This menu and the recipes have given me a another reason to be thankful! My pumpkin for the pies comes from a can and I have never served roast pig! I enjoyed reading this post!!

    1. LOL Thanks, Connie. My pumpkin pie is from a can too.

  2. Love the post! Pumpkin pie and tea were all this meal and mine had in common. The thing is, my tea was bought in a gallon jug and poured over ice and the pumpkin used for the pie came straight from a can.

  3. Turkey and pumpkin pie are about the only things our meal had in common with the one you presented. I wonder how many people that menu served. Thanks for the peak into the past.

  4. I had to laugh at the menu because the roast turkey and tea were the only like things on my mine. Pecan Pie instead of pumpkin. I had enough trouble eating what I prepared much less this amount of food. Wow! This looks more like a northern "Yankee" meal. Unless one lived on the coast of the Carolinas or Georgia or on the Gulf Coast, oysters were hard to come by. My grandmother, born in 1880 always had sweet potatoes on her menu. She said her recipe came from my grandfather's mother, Sallie, who always prepared them on Thanksgiving. They were from Louisiana 35 miles north of Baton Rouge. I still make the casserole today, and not just on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    1. Nice, Martha. As for the oysters they were one of the first and most commonly canned items and were transported around the country.

    2. Yuk! I can't imagine canned oysters. Tried a fresh one and gagged but got it down. First and last one. Glad my Louisiana great-grandmother didn't use them. She made cornbread dressing as did my maternal grandmother.

  5. I LOVE this Lynn! What fun to see what people served for Thanksgiving a hundred + years ago! Thanks for sharing this, especially the recipes. :-)

  6. Everyone raved about my mother's holiday dressing. She never let anyone help her make it. After she died, my sister and I were dividing up her recipe box. We found her note card saying to chop the oysters very fine so no one could identify them. I'm the only one in the family who actually likes oysters. Marsha and I made the dressing the next year, but got caught chopping the oysters. I got to eat lots of dressing. Thanks for your post.

  7. Our dinner was not even close to this! Turkey (and it wasn't completely cooked!), cranberry ice, whipped sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes (from a box), corn, croissants and 4 different pies. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. I hear you Sharon. Below I'll share my thanksgiving menu this year.

  8. My grandfather always wanted oyster stew but I never serve it because no one but my mother and I like it now! Maybe at Christmas...

  9. I apologize for not getting back with all of you right after this post went live. Thanksgiving this year was a huge event for my family. I had a family reunion, 60th Anniversary celebration for my parents. We had 33 for dinner so we borrowed the church. Here's the menu we had this year and trust me this was not that much more than what I do most years.
    Turkey & Ham (Normally just turkey)
    Stuffing (no oysters but definitely cooked in the turkey)
    mashed potatoes
    Roasted Potato, sweet potato rutabaga and onion dish
    butternut squash
    boiled onions
    green bean casserole
    Cranberry sauce (home-made and canned)
    Black olives
    sweet & dill pickles
    Pies: Apple, Cherry, Chocolate pudding pie, Mincemeat, Pumpkin, Lemon Meringue, Coconut Cream, Pumpkin Pudding Pie.
    We had dishes for the Vegans and Vegetarians in the family as well.