By Ken Albala, Professor of History, University of the Pacific
Although Thanksgiving was instituted as an official holiday in the U.S. in 1863, the original celebration in the 17th century among the pilgrims at Plymouth has roots in the Old Testament. Their intention was to replace medieval saint’s days (which they considered pagan) with biblically warranted festivals, many of which they found in the Torah.
Among the ancient Hebrews, there were days of fasting and penitence as well as days of thanksgiving, both for special occasions as well as harvest celebrations. Sukkot is one of these, which falls between late September and late October. During the week-long festival, a temporary structure is set up outside, covered in leaves. Everyone then eats there (and, sometimes, they even sleep there). The rituals involve blessings over the luvav – palm fronds and myrtle bound with willow and the etrog, a citron. Of course, there is also feasting upon the fall harvest.
When Jewish communities arrived in the U.S. and then made their way Westward, they organized what is regarded as the oldest congregation in California in 1849, made up largely of merchants serving the gold rush miners from the furthest inland port town of Stockton. Little did anyone suspect in the 19th century that official “American Thanksgiving” was a long lost cousin of the ancient Hebrew thanksgiving celebrations celebrated among these settlers, including Sukkot.
In 1924, The Ladies of Temple Israel published “The Stockton Community Cookbook” which includes these recipes. They reflect the Yiddish origins of the community and both are perfect for cool weather and our modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations.
Make noodle dough of two eggs. When partly dry, cut in small squares. Take 1 cup chopped meat, 1/2 teaspoon onion juice, salt and pepper and yolk of one egg, mix together. Take white of egg and rub over squares of noodles very lightly, put small amount of meat on each square and press two opposite points together. Drop in boiling soup and boil about 20 minutes.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage
one head cabbage
2 lbs. beef brisket
1 pint tomatoes
1 quart water
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dried mushrooms
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Wash cabbage, shred very fine and dice the onion and apples. Add all the remaining ingredients and boil two and a half hours. If the water boils down, more should be added.
By Liko Hoe, Hawaiian Studies Assistant Professor, Windward Community College, Kaneohe
As the dry summer season gives way to the wet season, Hawaiians celebrate the yearly festival called the Makahiki. The Makahiki is an intricate cycle of ritual that involves all the different parts of Hawaiian society – from the makaʻainana (“common farmer”) to the aliʻi nui (“high chief”) and every one in between.
Food or ʻai is central to all of Hawaiian society. In the Hawaiian language, the word ʻAikapu (“Food Laws”) is used to describe the rules that govern society in general. The act of eating is the foundational act of all the people and the universe.
In the Makahiki festival, Hawaiians recognize the divine source of the food that sustains us. Lono is the god of the Makahiki season and has many kinolau (“embodied forms”). One of the most significant of his forms during the festival season is the southern storms, and the clouds and rains that come with them. These major water-carrying systems give life to the land and, therefore, to the people. Another form of Lono, a carved image, is carried on a circuit around the island and is presented with taxes from each valley district in recognition of Lonoʻs authority. The makaʻainana and the aliʻi alike follow the procession that takes about a month and celebrate with hula, games, and food.
Some of the festival foods that were prepared and eaten were kūlolo and pepeieʻe. Kūlolo is still eaten in Hawaiʻi today for special occasions and is made out of ground taro, coconut milk and some kind of sweetener. Pepeieʻe, less common today, is made out of over ripe breadfruit or banana that is mixed with coconut milk and baked in the imu (“underground oven”). These would be the traditional equivalents of our cotton candy and fried carnival foods, basically the fattest and sweetest things around.
Towards the end of the Makahiki season, there is a traditional ritual that foretells the abundance of food in the coming year. This ritual involves a wide-eyed net that is stretched out and filled with food. The priests that are holding the net then shake the net and carefully observe the food that passes through. The food that falls through represents the availability of food for the coming year until the next Makahiki season. This ritual is a reference to a story from Hawaiian tradition of a chief named Makaliʻi, who took up all of the food on earth and placed it in a net suspended in the stars. It is the rat that we have to thank for climbing up into the sky and gnawing through the netting so that food could fall back down to earth.
After the Christianization of Hawaiʻi in the 19th century, many of the traditional Hawaiian festivities ceased and were replaced with the holiday season that many are familiar with. However, since the 1970s, significant parts of Hawaiian culture and society have enjoyed a revitalization that continues today. Makahiki is increasingly becoming a more regular part of our contemporary holiday cycle. Hopefully, the Makahiki and festivals like it will continue to highlight the prominence of food and its importance to our lives.
As published in Dr. Kilolani Mitchell’s book, “Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture”
2 medium taro
cream from 3 coconuts with the coconut water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup finely grated coconut meat may be added if desired
Mix the finely grated taro, sugar, and honey and add coconut cream until mixture is as thin as pancake batter. Do not taste! Place in greased baking pans, cover with ti leaves and aluminum foil and bake in a 325° oven for 2 1/2 hours. Cool, slice, and serve on a piece of ti leaf.
Although I have spent most of my adult life in southwest Michigan, my growing up years in the 1940s and 1950s found me on a family farm in southern Wisconsin. It was in this rural setting that I was introduced to a plentiful supply of home grown foods deliciously prepared by my mother, almost exactly as they had been prepared by generations before her.
When I joined a 4-H club at the age of 10, my first and favorite project was in the area of food preparation. I did much of the family baking and exhibited at the annual 4-H Fair.
I soon learned that many recipes for baked goods called for an ingredient referred to as “nut meats.” This actually meant walnuts or pecans, but novice bakers often could be found searching for nutmeats near meat cases at grocery stores.
In the Midwest, black walnut trees produced treasured nuts that were often coveted by bakers. The first frost in autumn loosened the nuts from the trees. These green-husked covered nuts dropped from the trees and were gathered and dried. Next came the very labor-intensive task of removing the husks and cracking the hard shelled black nuts open with a hammer.
In our family, my maternal grandfather was the champion black walnut cracker. He knew just how to hit each nut resulting in large pieces of nuts perfect for baking. These treasured black walnuts have a wonderful earthy flavor.
One of the recipes I want to share is my maternal grandmother’s heirloom Applesauce Cake recipe that features black walnuts. My family members have baked it for over 100 years. At holiday time, my mother would often add candied fruit or frost the loaves with a rich butter cream frosting.
For as long as I can remember, winter squash has graced our Thanksgiving table. The vibrant yellow pulp of butternut or buttercup squash holds its shape beautifully and is full of flavor. Seasoned with a bit of butter and salt, it is the autumn vegetable of choice for many Midwest diners.
Actually the baking of winter squash is more of a “plan” than a recipe. Follow these easy directions for perfect squash every time.
When cool weather arrives here in the Midwest, it is time to begin thinking about fresh cranberry recipes. After all, this popular bright red fruit is native to North America and has been featured in harvest celebration menus for years.
My first memory of a recipe using fresh cranberries was this uncooked cranberry relish. We ground the cranberries using a hand meat grinder that had a clamp that was attached to a breadboard or kitchen table. When cranberry juice dripped all over the floor, we quickly solved the problem by freezing the berries before grinding or chopping.
Photo: The Rock County home of farmer Josiah T. Wright, near Janesville, Wisconsin Photo courtesy of J. R. Porter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cups black walnuts
1 cup raisins
In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat well. Blend in the applesauce and vanilla. Sift together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add to creamed mixture, mixing to blend in flour ingredients. Stir in black walnuts and raisins.
Pour into 2 greased and well-floured baking pan. Bake in preheated 350° oven for 45-50 minutes until wooden pick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on rack.
Mashed Winter Squash
Because of growing conditions, winter squash can sometimes have high water content. The second baking of the seasoned mashed squash solves the moisture problem and brings out the natural sweet flavor of the squash itself.
1 (3-4 pound) butternut or buttercup squash
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Cut squash open and remove seeds. Place squash cut-side down on foil-lined 10x15-inch baking pan. Bake in preheated 350° oven 50-60 minutes.
When squash is cool enough to handle, remove squash from shell and discard the seeds. Mash the squash pulp with the melted butter and salt.
Place mashed squash in buttered 1 and 1-2 quart casserole. (This is the procedure that I refer to as the second baking.) Bake in preheated 350° oven for 20-30 minutes.
Favorite Fresh Cranberry Relish
Makes 1 quart
3 cups cranberries
1 unpeeled medium navel orange, cut into small wedges
1 1/2 cups sugar
Freeze fresh cranberries to avoid losing juice, if you wish. Grind the cranberries and orange (including peel) in a meat grinder or chop with the steel blade in a food processor. Stir together the cranberry/orange mixture with sugar.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
By John Forti, co-founder of Slow Food Seacoast (NH/MA/ME), co-leader of the New England Ark of Taste regional committee for Slow Food USA and vice chair of the Herb Society of America NE. He is the Curator of Historic Landscapes at Strawbery Banke and previously served for 15 years as the Director of Horticulture for Plimoth Plantation Museum.
Each year, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to reconnect with a cultural inheritance of nearly forgotten foods. The origins of the holiday teach us that even across cultural divides, we can successfully come together around a table to enjoy the things we share in common.
Perhaps more than any other holiday, the traditional foods of Thanksgiving remind us that our communities have endured the ages, thanks to agriculture.
The harvest feast first celebrated in 1621 Plymouth brought together the Wampanoag tribe and those we have come to know as Pilgrims. Having arrived in the new world without adequate provisions, the Pilgrims gathered to share a feast and celebrate their first successful harvest.
They invited the Wampanoag who taught them how to cultivate the beans, corn and squash that sustained them year-round. In addition to these crops, they also prepared wild fowl, venison, root crops and the seasonal produce known to grace that harvest table. Centuries later, this early New England harvest festival was adapted to the 19th century palate, and repurposed as a national holiday intended to reunite a nation torn apart by Civil War.
Since that time, Thanksgiving has served as a cultural reminder to appreciate a time when we were content with simpler pleasures. As a result, Thanksgiving has remained one of our least commercial, and most family-centered holidays. It encourages us to take inspiration from the melding of two traditional diets and our nation’s first multi-cultural locavore feast.
Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal.
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three
1/2 crushed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds or a combination of all three
1 quart water
maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)
Combine cornmeal, berries, crushed nuts, and the optional sweetener in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
Sobaheg is the Wampanoag word for stew. Like most stews, this dish is easily adapted to seasonal ingredients. The ground nuts help to thicken the sobaheg. Variations of this dish are still made in Wampanoag country today.
1/2 pound dry beans (white, red, brown or spotted kidney-shaped beans)
1/2 pound white hominy corn or yellow samp or coarse grits, available from Gonsalves or Goya at many grocery stores
1 pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)
3 quarts cold water
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch-lengths
1/2 pound winter squash, trimmed and cubed
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed meats, pounded to a course flour (or pounded walnuts)
dried onion and/or garlic to taste
clam juice or salt to taste (optional)
Combine dried beans, corn, turkey, seasonings and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down to a very low simmer, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to be certain bottom is not sticking.
When dried beans are tender, but not mushy, break up turkey meat, removing skin and bones. Add green beans and squash, and simmer very gently until they are tender.
Add sunflower or nut flour, stirring until thoroughly blended.
Boiled bread is a small patty made mostly of cornmeal with crushed nuts and berries added in. It is dropped in a pot of boiling water and when done, rises to the top.
1 quart slightly boiled water
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and/or currants
1/2 cup crushed nuts or seeds (walnuts, hazelnuts or sunflower seeds)
Maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix thoroughly. After mixing, slowly add a spoonful at a time of slightly boiled water. When the mix is thick enough to be sticky, shape round patties (about 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick). Return water to slight rolling boil and drop in 1 or 2 patties, carefully making sure they do not stick to the bottom. Remove breads when they begin to float.
Curds are a soft cheese like cottage cheese or ricotta. These fritters are a lot like thin pancakes or crepes. This recipe is from the 1594 cookbook, “The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin” (pg. 47-48).
To make Curde Frittors
“Take the yolks of ten Egs, and breake them in a pan, and put to them one handful Curdes and one handful of fine flower, and sttraine them all together, and make a batter, and if it be not thicke ynough, put more Curdes in it, and salt to it. Then set it on the fyre in a frying pan, with such stuffe as ye will frie them with, and when it is hot, with a ladle take part of your batter, and put of it into the panne, and let it run as smal as you can, and stir then with a sticke, and turne them with a scummer, and when they be fair and yellow fryed, take them out, and cast Sugar upon them, and serve them foorth.”
* Modern Version *
curds (ricotta, cottage or other soft cheese)
wheat or corn flour
cooking oil or butter
Make a thin batter with the eggs and equal amounts of curds and flour. Season with salt. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in your frying pan. When the oil is hot, pour in the batter and tip the pan to make the batter spread very thin (that’s what “let it run as small as you can” in the recipe means). They should be like crepes. When brown on one side, use your knife to flip them over or slide them onto a plate and flip them over into the pan. Add more oil to the pan when needed. Serve with sugar sprinkled on the top if you wish.
This recipe is the English version of the Native Nasau mp recipe above. The word samp is a simplified English version of the word nasaump. The description below comes from the 1600s book “Two Voyages to New England” by John Josselyn.
“It is light of digestion, and the English make a kind of Loblolly of it to eat with Milk, which they call Sampe; they beat it in a Morter, and sift the flower out of it; the remainder they call Hominey, which they put into a Pot of two or three Gallons, with Water, and boyl it upon a gentle Fire till it be like a Hasty Puden; they put of this into Milk, and so eat it.”
* Modern Version *
2 cups coarse corn grits - available from Gonsalves or Goya at many grocery stores
4 cups water
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
Bring water to a boil in large saucepan with a heavy bottom. Add the corn grits and stir. Simmer until they are soft, about 10 minutes, and the water has been absorbed. Serve with milk and sugar.
This is a delicious recipe for pumpkin, known as "pompions" to English people in the 17th century (as were all squash.) It is one of the earliest written recipes from New England, from a book written by John Josselyn, a traveler to New England in the 1600's.
John Josselyn called this recipe a “standing dish” suggesting that this sort of pumpkin dish was eaten everyday or even at every meal. He called it “ancient” because English housewives had cooked this recipe in New England for a long time.
“The Ancient New England standing dish:
The Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew'd enough, it will look like bak'd Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh.”
* Modern Version *
4 cups of cooked (boiled, steamed or baked) squash, roughly mashed
3 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir and heat all the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve hot.
By Gary Nabhan, Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and founder of “Renewing America’s Food Traditions”
“Makah spoken history tells the story of ancient times when the Makah People lived in a world that revolved around the sea and land. Yet it never lets one forget the great cultural changes that brought the tribe to where it is today, a sovereign nation in its traditional homeland. Makah tribal members live both on and off the reservation and throughout the world practicing an intertwined contemporary and native culture. The Makah, both past and present, have demonstrated their ability to adapt, survive and flourish.”
– Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula, by the Olympic Peninsula Intertribal Advisory Committee
Located in the most northwesterly point of the lower 48 states, on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, the Makah Nation is estimated to be more than 3,500 years old. Much of their known history comes from oral traditions passed down through the generations. Like many First Nation and indigenous peoples, they used nearly all of what they took from the land and sea. Their feasts included various fish and marine mammals, elk, deer, berries and a variety of plants.
According to tribal lore, one staple of the Makah diet for the last 200 years has been the Ozette Potato – named after one of their five villages located around Neah Bay.
Unlike most potatoes, the Makah Ozette variety came directly from South America to Neah Bay, where Spaniards were attempting to stake out territory along the northern Pacific coast in the late 1700s. When they established a fort at Neah Bay in the spring of 1791, they planted a garden that surely included potatoes they had brought directly from South America via Mexico.
The spuds the Spanish had planted in their summer garden persisted and soon went feral after the fort was abandoned that winter. Legend has it that the Makah Ozette potato was discovered and adopted by women of the Makah Nation when they were out foraging in 1792. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of their culture, for the next two centuries Makah women took on the role of serving as the sole stewards of their newly found tuber crop, secretly cultivating the potato in modest gardens on the rainforest edge.
The Makah Ozette has remained on the Olympic Peninsula because the Makah people cherish its distinctive flavor. In doing so, the Makah have protected a rare example of a truly local potato. The knobby fingerling potato with its rich, creamy texture may be unusual to most of us, but it is an example of the incredible variety of shapes, colors and tastes found in South American potatoes.
8 Makah Ozette potatoes
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 leek bulb, the white parts only, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced White Portugal onion
2 tablespoons minced Canada Cheese Pimento pepper
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) Dungeness crab meat
1 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the potatoes on the oven rack and bake them for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are fork tender. Remove them from the oven to cool, then peel and grate them into a bowl. Set aside.
Next, place the lemon zest in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat the process twice, then rinsed the zest in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Mince, then set aside.
In a large non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the corn oil and then the grated potatoes, spreading them out evenly and sautéing them for 5 to 7 minutes without mixing or flipping. Spread the leek, onion, and pepper out on top of the grated potatoes and cook for 5 minutes more or until the bottom is golden brown.
Spread the crabmeat atop this mix and sprinkle with the minced zest and dill, salt, and pepper. Turn the entire hash cake over with a spatula and cook for 7 more minutes or until the hash cake is evenly heated and a crisp, golden hue. Serve on four plates with poached eggs mounted onto the hash cake slices.
By Leni Sorensen, Ph.D., culinary historian, writer, consultant, teacher of Rural Life Skills
During the Jeffersonian Era in Virginia, as the dark days of late fall and early winter closed in, people would begin to harvest fall vegetables and meats for the table. The wealthiest families already ate a rich and varied menu year-round, while the middling planters and small farmers seem to have followed suit when possible, but with no particular date or named holiday in mind. Thus, there was no official day of thanksgiving.
However, a special menu might be scheduled when the wild game became plentiful – water fowl, venison, quail, wild turkeys, grouse, ptarmigans, or partridge. Or a feast within the slave quarter could mark the end of the corn harvest with the shucking of the ears and storage in the barn.
The beginning of the butchering season promised the annual bounty of hams and smoked meats along with the protein rich offals commonly prepared as souse, and other kinds of pickled pig parts. Mincemeat of pork feet, venison, or beef was a popular way for the prosperous to combine the meat harvest with imported luxuries such as spices and spirits.
For plantation masters, middling planters, and small farmers, the late fall meant reaping the financial profits from a good harvest. For the enslaved, it meant some ease from the long hot days of summer labor and time to gather foods from their gardens and poultry yards to supplement the standard rations (most usually one peck of cornmeal and two to three pounds of salt pork a week for a full adult laborer). This additional food supply was put away for the winter months.
Depending on where one lived, the fall harvest could include peanuts, corn, beef, wild turkey, pork, pumpkins, persimmons, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, fall greens (mustard, turnip, watercress), oysters – and an astounding variety of orchard fruits, especially apples. Crops such as parsnips and carrots could remain in the ground to be harvested throughout the winter; while cabbages were pulled whole to be stored in cold cellars along with potatoes and beets.
In such a large state, there was considerable regional variety. In those days Virginia ranged from the balmy Tidewater to the mountains of Appalachia ending all the way in the western woodlands bordered by the Ohio River.
Mary Randolph, author of the most famous cookbook of the era, did not mention a particular harvest festival but her vegetables and meats would have always been local and seasonal. She and her enslaved cooks understood how to present a menu that represented the best of any season. And, of course, religious tradition taught all people to be grateful for the foods they raised and hunted.
Parsnips are sweet, with an earthy fragrance and a flavor somewhere between a sweet potato and a carrot!
Parsnips are to be cooked just in the same manner as carrots; they require more or less time, according to their size, therefore match them in size, and you must try them by thrusting a fork into them as they are in the water; when this goes easily through, they are done enough; boil them from an hour to two hours, according to their size and freshness. Parsnips are sometimes sent up mashed in the same way as turnips, and some cooks quarter before they boil them.
– Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-Wife, 1826, pg. 124
** Note: in this recipe Randolph differs from her usual vegetable cookery style and recommends a very long time to boil her parsnips. Since parsnips were a winter vegetable that could be held in the ground well after the first snows and even dug all winter through till spring perhaps she was used to very mature and large parsnips.
We, however, are fortunate to be able to get nice-sized fresh parsnips in most markets. A sauté in a bit of water will tenderize the slices in 20 minutes or less, whether cut long or round. Her advice to use a fork to test the cooking parsnips is spot-on. Once the parsnips are tender, drizzle butter and honey on them in the pan and continue gently stirring until the edges of the pieces are beginning to brown slightly. Do not walk away from the pan at this step, for the honey will burn easily.
Mrs. W.H.F. Lee’s Mincemeat Pie Filling
Mincemeat is a dessert many of us assume we hate because we have only been exposed to the 20th century commercial meatless brand, but mincemeat was one of the most popular pies of the entire 19th century! This recipe comes from the Shirley Plantation Collection, compiled in the late nineteenth century, but reflecting a culinary tradition with roots reaching back into eighteenth century Virginia. The recipe below is from food historian Nancy Carter Crump’s “Hearthside Cooking: Early American Southern Cuisine Updated for Today’s Hearth and Cookstove” (2nd Edition, UNC Press, 2009, p. 226). This adaptation is for the modern cook and shared here with her kind permission.
Makes enough mincemeat for 6-8 pies
6 cups cooked, chopped beef heart (approximately 1 1/4 pounds)
6 cups peeled, cored, and chopped tart apples
6 cups finely chopped beef suet
4 cups raisins
2 cups currents
1 teaspoon cloves (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons nutmeg (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon allspice (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
4 cups red wine
2 cups brandy
Common Pie Crust (page 221)
Combine beef heart, apples, and suet in a large pot. Cover with cider. Combine raisins, currents, spices, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add to beef mixture, stirring well. Combine wine and brandy. Pour over beef mixture and blend thoroughly. Cover and cook mixture over low heat 2 to 3 hours, stirring often.
While hot, pack cooked mincemeat into hot sterile jars and set aside to age at least one month before using.
Use mincemeat to fill prepared pie crust. If baking on the hearth, follow directions on page 196. If baking in a conventional oven bake pie in preheated 425° oven for 40-50 minutes.
This version of creamed cabbage is rich and satisfying as a side dish.
Take two good heads of cabbage, cut out the stalks, boil it tender with a little salt in the water, have ready one large spoonful of butter and a small one of flour rubbed into it, half a pint of milk, with pepper and salt, make it hot, put the cabbage in after pressing out the water, and stew it till quite tender.
– Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-Wife, 1826, pg. 105
** Note: The milk Randolph calls for would have been much more like our modern half and half. Randolph’s book has four recipes for cabbage. It was a vegetable that could be harvested and stored for winter use and, from the records of the Thomas Jefferson family food purchases, cabbage must have been a favorite at the table at Monticello. The whole head stored well and could be counted on to be unspoiled in the middle of the winter. Today, cabbage will last for many weeks in the fridge.
Cabbage is so easy to grow that it has continued to be a garden favorite. Seedlings are for sale in the earliest spring and again come fall. Cabbages come in many shapes; round headed, cone headed, and deeply crinkled Savoy varieties. Even Nappa Cabbage (actually a form of Chinese cabbage) can be prepared as are other cabbages, A La Creme, or as sauerkraut, or stuffed as rolls in a rich tomato sauce.
Water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource in the Western U.S., but in the days before climate change and rampant population growth, the small indigenous tribes of people who inhabited the desert were able to enjoy a varied and plentiful diet in the verdant river valleys of the West.
Not many people know that the area with the longest known history of agriculture in the U.S. lies not on the East Coast or in the Midwest, but in the Santa Cruz River valley of Southern Arizona. The fertile floodplain of the Santa Cruz, which winds from headwaters east of Patagonia into Mexico and then north through what is now downtown Tucson, was originally inhabited by hunter-gatherers and then later by indigenous people who built the first series of irrigation canals in North America, around 1200 B.C. Those early farmers cultivated beans and maize, but they also foraged for native desert foods, including prickly pear and saguaro fruit, cholla buds, and mesquite pods, which they ground into flour. Their descendants continue those food traditions to this day.
Spanish explorers and missionaries came to the valley in the late 1600s, bringing with them figs, olives, pomegranates, quince and livestock. In 1775, the Presidio de Tucson was established, and the valley has been home to immigrants from other cultures ever since. Tucson’s modern-day Mission Garden project is re-creating a garden and orchard on the site of the original Spanish Colonial walled garden of the Mission San Augustin, and will eventually incorporate areas representing the cultural diversity of early agriculture and the European and Asian settlers who came later.
Unlike other parts of the country that experience four distinct seasons, harvest time in the desert runs from late spring throughout the summer and into late fall. During Tucson’s Presidio period, from the late 1700s to the middle of the 19th century, residents celebrated both Spanish feast days and the traditional harvest rituals of the indigenous people. This penchant for festivals has extended into modern-day Tucson. You can find some sort of food, music, or cultural festival going on many weekends of the year.
Modern Southwest cooking is influenced by native traditions, as well as by the foodways of the people who have come to call the desert home. It is an enticing and sensory mélange of flavors, aromas, and techniques that combine to create a distinctive cuisine reflective of the many cultures that have embraced desert life.
Adapted from “Southwest Comfort Food” by Marilyn Noble
Cooking meats over a fire was, and still is, a tradition in the Southwest. For the best results, look for grassfed lamb from a local farm and don’t overcook it. The jalapeños add spice to the recipe without making it too hot, but you can adjust the number if you want to control the amount of heat.
6 cloves garlic
6 fresh jalapeños, seeded
1/2 cup tequila
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 leg of lamb, bone-in, 5-6 pounds
Puree the garlic, jalapeños, tequila, mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor. Place the lamb in a large glass baking dish and coat with the marinade. Cover and marinate eight hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat the grill to low heat, 225°. Move the coals to one side. If you’re using a gas grill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for indirect grilling. Place the lamb on the grill away from the coals and cover. Roast until the internal temperature is 135° for medium rare. Remove from the grill and let rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to distribute throughout the meat. Carve and serve with the compote on the side.
Spicy Fig Apple Compote
The Spaniards brought figs to the missions of the New World, and now Mission figs are one of the most popular varieties produced in California and the Southwest. Chiltepins are a chile native to Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. They are fiery hot and need to be used with care, and if you cannot find them, use red chile flakes to give a bit of a kick. The compote also works well with other grilled meats like grass-fed beef or bison.
Makes 2 cups
1 cup dried Mission figs, chopped
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 dried chiltepin pod, or 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 cups red wine
1/4 cup mesquite honey
1 cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the figs, apples, chiltepin, wine, honey, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat, cover, and allow to cook for about an hour and a half. The liquid should be reduced and thick.
Remove from heat and cool. Remove the spices and place the compote in a glass jar and refrigerate. The compote will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Adapted from “The Essential Southwest Cookbook”
In the Southwest, no holiday celebration is complete without tamales. Cooks gather in kitchens from El Paso to Santa Fe to Tucson to enjoy the conviviality (and sometimes good-natured rivalry) of following their own family traditions. Some add olives, some add raisins; others are purists and use only beef or pork. They freeze well and the recipe is easily doubled or tripled, so you can make them in advance and save them for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is a multi-day event – make the chile sauce and the filling one day and then assemble the tamales the next.
If you live near a tortillería or a large Latin American grocery store, you may be able to buy moist, freshly ground masa, which is ideal for making tamales. Be sure to ask for “masa para tamales” that has not already been mixed with lard or shortening, and find out whether or not it has already been salted. If so, omit the salt in the recipe. (If the store renders fresh lard, buy some of that, too!) Otherwise, you can make your own dough at home using masa harina and water.
Wherever you buy masa, you should also be able to buy packages of hojas or dried corn husks for wrapping the tamales. Before use, clean the husks of any corn silk, cover them with water, and soak them until pliable. You will need some extra husks, as they tend to split, but narrow husks can easily be overlapped if necessary.
Makes about 2 dozen
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup red chile sauce (recipe follows)
Place the pork butt in a large Dutch oven. Add the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt. Add enough cold water to cover by several inches. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow it to rest 20 minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat. In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the shredded pork with enough Red Chile Sauce to thoroughly moisten the meat. (Should be done at least one day in advance.)
On the day of the tamale-making, clean and soak one bag of dried corn husks in warm water until soft and pliable.
While the husks are soaking, make the masa.
2 pounds freshly ground masa for tamales, or 3 cups masa harina mixed with 2 cups warm water
1 cup fresh lard, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
If you’re using masa harina, pour it into a bowl and add 2 cups warm water. Work the mixture into a dough with your hands, then set it aside to rest for about 15 minutes. If you’re using fresh masa, skip this step.
Add the lard to the work bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the whisk attachment (or use a regular hand mixer in a large bowl) and beat it together with the salt and baking powder until light and fluffy.
If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment. While beating, add the reconstituted or fresh masa by handfuls into the work bowl. Add the stock and beat until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt if necessary.
Continue beating until the masa is light and fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes. The masa is ready when a grape-sized ball of dough floats in a glass of cold water. If the dough sinks, continue beating 5 minutes longer, then test it again.
When the masa is ready, remove the corn husks from the water and set upright in a colander to let any remaining water drain.
To make tamales, spread out the husk on a work surface, spread about 1/3 cup of masa down the center, and then add 1–2 tablespoons of the meat filling. Don’t overfill; when the tamale is folded, the masa should enclose the filling. Fold over the sides and then fold up the bottom (small end) of the husk, leaving the top end open, and lay or prop the tamales fold sides down to keep them closed until cooked.
Stand the tamales in a steamer pot or pressure cooker with plenty of water in the bottom, at least two inches to prevent scorching. Steam for one hour or pressure cook for 40 minutes. Tamales are done when the masa has lost its pale floury color and has turned slightly golden and become somewhat firm. Remove from heat, keep covered, and allow to cool slightly. They continue to set as they cool.
Serve hot with red chile sauce. Be sure to provide an extra plate or bowl on the table for the discarded husks. Any leftovers may be frozen.
Red Chile Sauce:
Here is a version of New Mexico’s famous red chile sauce. Even though you may not need the whole batch for tamales, make it anyway because it freezes well and makes an excellent topping for burritos, enchiladas, or even your breakfast scrambled eggs.
Makes about 4 cups
24 dried red New Mexico chiles
4 cups beef stock, chicken stock, or water
2 tablespoons bacon grease, lard, or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the chiles on both sides (you’ll have to do this in batches) until they soften slightly and become aromatic. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds.
Transfer the chiles to a deep saucepan and pour the stock or water over them. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the chiles to rest, about 15 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the chiles with their soaking liquid.
In the cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the bacon grease. Add the garlic and flour and cook, stirring until the mixture becomes golden. Add the pureed chiles and stir quickly while the sauce bubbles and spatters. Reduce the heat, add the oregano, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
The Origins of Thanksgiving
Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has become a special day to share a home-cooked meal with loved ones and an offering of thanks for our blessings. In many ways, Thanksgiving is the quintessential “Slow Food” holiday. And yet, as many of us know, Thanksgiving has a complicated and controversial past. As we celebrate with family and friends, it’s worth remembering the complexity and suffering from which our modern holiday of love, food and family was born.
Many of us are familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving: Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest after a few years of starvation and struggle together with friends from the Wampanoag Nation. That harvest was made possible thanks to the knowledge, seeds and traditional farming practices that the Native Americans shared with the newly arrived settlers.
What many of us don’t know is the story that followed in the intervening years between that celebration and the holiday of family, food and giving that many of us are familiar with today. Following nearly two decades of peace, newly arrived Europeans began massacres of native peoples across the northeast over issues of land rights and ownership. (These killings were widely condemned by the original Pilgrims – many of whom were expelled from the society for voicing their opposition).
After one particularly successful massacre in what is now Connecticut, settlers gathered for a feast of “thanksgiving” – giving thanks for their victory over the native peoples. This is the tragic story of the second Thanksgiving. In subsequent years, as the killings across the northeast took on a frenzy, settlers held feasts of thanksgiving after each successful slaughter. By many accounts, George Washington brought order by declaring one day to be celebrated across the nation as “Thanksgiving Day.” Thanksgiving then became an official state holiday during the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln declared that it would fall on the fourth Thursday of every November.
Though none of us alive today took part in these atrocities, it is important to know the full context of the holiday in order to understand why some people find it difficult to celebrate. It is through this awareness that we bring thoughtfulness and true thanksgiving to our enjoyment.
About this Project
The purpose of this project is to celebrate the diversity of food cultures and harvest traditions that are rooted in the land and people across the United States. We acknowledge that we were only able to highlight a small sample of the rich variety available.
Thanksgiving: Its True History [warning: graphic discussion of massacres] A Native American perspective on the history of the holiday.
Source: Tidewater Native American Support Group, Inc.
Debunking Pilgrim Myths [audio] Nathaniel Philbrick dispels some of the myths surrounding the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, including the date of that dinner, what was eaten and what it was called.
The True Story of the First Thanksgiving [article] A look at the visual images related to the first Thanksgiving and analysis of an eyewitness report.
Source: Muse from the publishers of Cricket and Smithsonian Magazine
First Thanksgiving [for kids] Educational resource for talking with kids about Thanksgiving.
Source: National Geographic Kids
What Was on the Menu The history of the holiday meal tells us that a tasty bird was always the centerpiece, but other courses have since disappeared from the table.
Learn more about some of the many native-led projects to save endangered foods and traditions:
For the earth, air, fire and water;
For the seasons, and the directions of the compass;
For the phases of our lives, and those that came before us;
For those who did not pave the way, but instead, cultivated it;
For those that saved the seeds of a better future,
And acted as stewards of our resources and inheritance,
A legacy of waterways, woodlands, fields and farms.
An inheritance of seasonal observations, life skills, holiday customs, recipes for nourishing foods, deep connections and life passages that anchor us in a sense of place, stewardship and community.
A celebration in what we have learned thus far, and where we are going.
So I offer this humble prayer to the Native and the immigrant.
For the seacoast and the soil, the seeds and roots,
and the farmers who renew tradition with each passing season.
For the farmers market and the holiday table, our family and friends,
and the kinship that comes from celebrating renewal for our changing landscape and nature!