Sunday, February 15, 2009

Abe Lincoln and Kentucky Pumpkins

Abraham Lincoln was born and lived in Kentucky until he was almost eight years old. He went to school there and, as an adult, shared memories of his time on the northern Kentucky farm saying, “My earliest recollection is of the Knob Creek place.” He told of planting pumpkin seeds among the hills of corn seed. One year rain deluged the sloping field, washing out the entire young crop. In spite of that failure and other pioneering challenges, the Lincoln’s 230-acre farm was a success. Thomas Lincoln, Abe’s father who was also a skilled carpenter, had at least three horses and a cow. In addition to corn, pumpkins and kitchen vegetables, they probably raised hogs and chickens. When the Lincolns moved to Indian in 1816, they left behind a surplus 40 bushes of corn in a neighbor’s care.

Pumpkins were valued as food for both farm animals and people. John Woods, an Englishman traveling along the Ohio River in 1820, wrote, “Pompions are another highly-prized production of this country. Cattle of all descriptions, pigs and poultry are fond of them.” He also described how much people enjoyed them. “They are much eaten here. They are excellent . . . . and are sliced and dried for winter use, for pies and sauce.” Abe’s mother Nancy could have made a sauce like this pumpkin butter from fresh or reconstituted dried pumpkin using spices she purchased in nearby Elizabethtown stores.

Pumpkin Butter
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Using modern ingredients such as canned pumpkin and pre-ground spices today’s cooks can make this sauce in about 30 minutes or less. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture has thickened. Stir frequently to keep from scorching. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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