Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Thanksgiving: Part 1

Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers crop shares of vegetables, fruits and meats from local family farms. When I saw the 19th century Bourbon Red heritage turkey would be available for Thanksgiving, I was delighted. There could be no better way to celebrate Lincoln in the 200th anniversary year of his birth. For while communities had celebrated fall Thanksgivings during much of the 19th century, his 1863 proclamation made it a true national holiday. Lincoln called upon his “ fellow citizens in every part of the United States and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands to set aside the fourth Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving.”

I picked up our 8-pound Bourbon Red Tuesday afternoon. I had picked up my 1845 copy of Miss Leslies’s Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches much earlier. For while the staff at Cooks of Crocus Hill suggest brining these lean birds, I decided to use the cookbook Mary Lincoln owned to come as close as I can to the preparation of her era.

Bird safely stowed in the truck, I stopped at Kowalski’s market to pick up the rest of the fixings: cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, light cream and a few herbs and seasonings. The bread for the forcemeat stuffing was rising and should be ready to bake when I walked in the door.

Thanksgiving morning has dawned. We’re aiming for a mid-afternoon dinner. Cranberry sauce and forcemeat are ready and vegetables have been peeled and cut. Soon the real cooking will start and I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous. I’ve cooked more turkeys than I care to count. Usually the preparation is close to foolproof. This year there are a lot of different ingredients and techniques to put me to the test.

At least I know the cranberry sauce is good. Check Twitter updates --

1845 Cranberry Sauce

1 12- to 16-ounce package fresh cranberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar

Wash and sort cranberries. Combine with water in a heavy sauce pan. Cover and cook over low to medium heat until berries pop and the mixture becomes jam-like. Be sure to lift cover and stir from time to time so the sauce does not stick and burn. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar melts into the jam. Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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