Thanksgiving blogging, part II: "beat all smartly together."

paring and slicing pumpkins for stewing

Paring and slicing pumpkins for stewing at Plimoth Plantation

(Don’t miss Thanksgiving blogging part I:  “this depends intirely on the goodness of your fire.”  Several commenters in that thread–Susan, Notorious Ph.D., Dr. Crazy, and Clio Bluestocking offered up delicious notes from their prospective feasts, and Notorious suggested that we all post recipes on Thanksgiving day from our own meal preparations.  Don’t miss out–post a recipe on your blog too, and if you don’t have a blog, post it in the comments thread on my blog!)

What would our Thanksgiving table be without a pumpkin pie?  Well, the version we eat is a modern invention, in its sweetness and richness–probably less than 200 years old.  The people in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 undoubtedly ate pumpkins and other winter squashes at their great feast of roasted fowl and venison, but it was probably served unsweetened and just simply “stewed,” with perhaps some salt and butter to enrich it, if they were fortunate.

I looked in vain to find a recipe for pumpkin pie in Mrs. Carter’s cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook (1772 edition), which was published in London and Boston, and I presume written by an Englishwoman.  So I had to look to Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (Hartford, 1796) to find recipes that deal specifically with New World ingredients like squashes and corn meal.  Here are two Native American ingredients transformed by the English love for all things sweetened and turned into a pudding-like consistency.  The first offers three versions for Indian Pudding, which is a basically hasty pudding (cornmeal mush) sweetened and enriched with butter and eggs.  Here they are, in declining order of richness and tastiness, in my opinion (p. 26):

A Nice Indian Pudding.

No. 1.  3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound of raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2, 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q. l. it will require two and half hours baking.

No. 3, salt a pint of meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot, secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

“No. 3” is clearly the most Anglicized version in the manner of preparation, which looks like a steamed English pudding, and an extremely heavy and unpleasant one at that.  But, all of the eggs, milk, and butter in the other versions are clearly contributions from English agriculture and foodways.  You’ll notice too that Mrs. Simmons is much more telegraphic in her delivery than was Mrs. Carter–she seems to presume more familiarity with ingredients and techniques.  (And I have no idea what “q. l” means–do any of you?)  Next, we have several recipes for transforming winter squashes into puddings and tarts (pp. 27-28):

A Crookneck, or Winter Squash Pudding.

Core, boil, and skin a good squash, and bruize it well; take 6 large apples, pared, cored, and stewed tender, mix together; add 6 or 7 spoonsful of dry bread or biscuit, rendered fine as meal, half pint milk or cream, 2 spoons of rose-water, 2 do. wine, 5 or 6 eggs beaten and strained, nutmeg, salt and sugar to your taste, one spoon flour, beat all smartly together, bake.

The above is a good receipt for Pompkins, Potatoes, or Yams, adding more moistening or milk and rose-water, and to the two latter a few black or Lisbon currants, or dry whortleberries scattered in, will make it better.

Immediately following the above recipie, we finally get to pumpkin pies!  From p. 28:


No. 1, one quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

No. 2, One quart of milk, one pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.

You’ll note that No. 1 doesn’t call for sugar, so it’s more like a quiche with a lattice crust.  (And check out those amounts–a quart of pumpkin, 6 cups of cream, and 9 eggs!–surely enough to make 3 or 4 9-inch pies.)  No. 2 is sweetened with molasses and spiced like modern pumpkin pies, and so is probably closer to what most of you will be eating on Thursday, although the ratio of milk to pumpkin makes it look rather milkier than pumpkiny.

14 thoughts on “Thanksgiving blogging, part II: "beat all smartly together."

  1. While pumpkin pie is delicious, I am hoping to start a new family tradition this year–lemon meringue pie at Thanksgiving. One can never have enough pie…


  2. “Don’t miss out – post a recipe on your blog too, and if you don’t have a blog, post it in the comments thread on my blog!)”

    Christmas is coming, here’s the inquiry
    Will you post a recipe on your “online diary”?
    If you have no blog, a comment will do
    If you have no comment, then God bless you!


  3. Mom and Dad arrived yesterday, and I’ve convinced mom to make one (at least) of her all-world blueberry pies. (I stockpiled blueberries in the freezer this summer precisely for this reason.) I know, it’s a summer thing, but I just can’t resist. Mom’s pie crust is a proprietary recipe, by which I mean it is completely in her head. Given that it comes from the French-Canadian side of the family, it probably contains thousands of calories. Yummy. My wife has also commissioned me to track down some shoofly pie at the local Amish bakery. I’m likely to attempt some apple crisp as well.

    But before all of that….Turkey (lightly seasoned and obsessively basted), vegetarian stuffing, green bean casserole, smashed yukon gold potatoes, and roasted butternut squash with carrots and broccoli (lightly dressed with oil, pepper, and sea salt). Corn may make a cameo appearance, though in what form I do not know. A strong bottle of red wine smuggled out of Italy a few years ago will probably accompany the meal.

    Happy day to one and all~


  4. We had spicy salmon with tomatoes and onions over polenta last year for Thanksgiving. At least the polenta is corn-based! But our best Thanksgiving ever was a low-country boil on Tybee Island (GA) with a bunch of friends. Any feast preparation that involves fire and burlap sacks–yeah, that’s for me.


  5. I’m takin’ a storebought mince to my table de l’invitation, but I did dig up a “Crunchy Pear and Cellery Salad” recipe on an internet site. Normally, the idea of a “crunchy,” or even a crisp, pear, would be about as appetizing as a nice smooshy apple. But I’ll give it a try. I live in somewhat the best of all cullinary worlds. Anything that works (and some things do) elicits looks of some wonderment. But what burns and then crashes tends to lead to a whatever, at least it was a good try.


  6. Historiann,

    Thanks to four years of high school Latin……

    What does QL stand for? Definition of Quantum Libet (Latin: As Much As You Please) in the list of acronyms and abbreviations provided by the Free Online … – 28k – Cached – Similar pages.
    I am enjoying the two Thanksgiving threads. To all, a very happy Thanksgiving.


  7. Ex-Pat and Ushma–you both came up with the answer I needed at about the same time. Thanks!

    I love the idea of blueberry and lemon merengue pies for Thanksgiving–why not put everything in a pie crust? (Mashed potato pie, and we can just skip the roasted turkey and go straight to the turkey pot pie, right!)

    K.N. sounds especially hungry. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and check back here on Thanksgiving Day for more recipes–I’ll link to all of the other bloggers who are posting recipes from their kitchens!


  8. My test kitchens (make that singular!) is already roaring. I’ll be posting my receipt as soon as it’s legally Thanksgiving, as I have miles to go before I eat tomorrow, and want to get an early start. Dinner tonight will be a rather thin fare…


  9. Well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, I guess. I’m jumping the gun by 49 minutes on actually posting on Thanksgiving because I’m going over the river and thru the woods at first light. Since the river is the Sasquehanna, and the woods are Penn’s Woods, it figures to be a long drive, so I thought I’d turn in early. This was fun to make. We’ll see if it keeps for the whole day before it reaches the table. It’s copped from an internet site last month, with the notation that it was “adapted from”

    I hope everybody has a good Holiday and gets home safe.




    4 stalks organic celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
    2 Tbsps cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
    2 Tbsps honey
    1/4 tsp salt
    2 ripe organic pears, preferably red Bartlett or Anjou, diced
    1 cup finely diced organic white cheddar cheese
    1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
    Freshly ground pepper to taste (Q.L.?)
    6 large leaves organic butterhead or other lettuce

    1. Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 mins. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2. Whisk vinegar, honey, and salt in a large bowl until blended.
    3. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper. Divide the lettuce leaves among 6 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

    NOTES: I skipped the organic part, except for leaving the pears unpeeled. I doubled down on the recipe, with a few exceptions. I used 2 large Bartlett and one medium-sized Anjou pear. The pecans can be slightly crushed with a rolling pin, then toasted in a thin coat of light oil in a skillet for a few minutes. For transport purposes, I did not divide the salad into portions, but put it in a large aluminum foil pan, covered with plastic. The nuts can be kept separately, esp. for food allergies purposes, and mixed in at the last minute. Not sure if this is a recipe to make the day ahead, but we’ll know in the morning. It was fun in any case.


  10. Pingback: Thanksgiving blogging, part III: recipe open thread : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  11. Pingback: Thanksgiving blogging, redux: How Not to Cook a Wolf : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  12. Pingback: Holiday round-up: Happy Cranksgiving! | Historiann

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