Turkey Time!

While Thanksgiving is still more than a month away, it’s never too early to begin planning.  And since this year I will be hosting my first Thanksgiving, and cooking my very first bird, I thought I’d begin to look for some advice from the past.  We all have our passed down recipes from family members that become staples in our holiday dinners.  My family, for instance, has an amazing stuffing recipe from my grandfather, which is always the highlight of the meal.  This year, however, I’m going to look for some additional inspiration from the past from AAS’ cookbook collection.

As we already know, cooking is definitely a different art now than it was in the 19th century, especially where cooking meat was concerned.  Many of the turkey recipes from the 19th century include information on the keeping, picking and slaughtering of the turkey, something most of us need not worry about.  Take for example some advice from Mrs. Stephen J. Field’s Statemen’s Dishes and How to Cook Them, 1890 –

The turkey should be cooped up and fed some time before Christmas.  Three days before it is slaughtered, it should have an English walnut forced down its throat three times a day, and a glass of sherry once a day.  The meat will be deliciously tender, and have a fine nutty flavor.

Definitely a creative way to enhance the flavor, but I wonder how effective it really was.  And I wonder how difficult it was to wine and dine the turkey as Mrs. Field proposes!

While there is only so much I can glean from the actual steps for roasting the bird itself, I found some interesting recipes for stuffing.  Many call for oysters or anchovies, and there’s always of course the staple of sausage.   The boling and roasting recipes are from Mrs. Marie Eliza Randall’s American Domestic Cookery, 1822.  I’ll likely skip the boiling option, although the stuffing for the boiled bird looks quite appetizing!

Finally, I’m always looking for creative ways to use up all those leftovers, and there are only so many turkey dinners and turkey sandwiches one can stomach.  So I’ve included Mrs. Randall’s recipe for pulled chicken, and a recipe for turkey hashed from Mrs. Lee’s The Cook’s Own Book, 1832.  Hopefully these will inspire new ways to prepare your leftover turkey.

If you have any great recipes that have been passed down through the generations, please share!  And happy cooking!

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Tracey Kry

Assistant Curator of Manuscripts and Assistant Reference Librarian, American Antiquarian Society

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