Cooking A Regency Turkey

This is the week we start preparing for our Thanksgiving Day holiday. We generally think of the first Thanksgiving as taking place in Plymouth in 1621, with Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrating out of doors at food-laden tables. This is a very important holiday to us, a commemoration of all the gifts bestowed upon, all the things we are thankful for.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations usually involve a turkey dinner. The wild turkey is actually indigenous to North America, so my question is, did they eat turkey in Regency England?

The answer is YES. The The 16th century English navigator William Strickland introduced turkeys into England. His coat of arms includes a turkey, so it must have been a big deal.

I wondered, if I were a Regency scullery maid (which I’m convinced I must have been in a previous life), what would I see Cook do to prepare a turkey for our lord and lady?

Here’s what The Art of Cookery Made Plain And Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing Of The Kind Yet Published by Hannah Glasse

To Roast a Fowl with Chesnuts.

FIRST take some chesnuts, roast them very carefully, so as not to burn them; take off the skin and peel them; take about a dozen of them cut small, and bruise them in a mortar; parboil the liver of the fowl, bruise it, cut about a quarter of a pound of ham or bacon, and pound it; then mix them all together, with a good deal of parsley chopped small, a little sweet herbs, some mace, pepper, salt, and nutmeg; mix these together and put into your fowl, and roast it. The best way of doing it is to tie the neck, and hang it up by the legs to roast with a string, and baste it with butter. For sauce, take the rest of the chesnuts peeled and skinned; put them into some good gravy, with a little white wine, and thicken it with a piece of butter rolled in flour; then take up your fowl, lay it in the dish, and pour in the sauce. Garnish with lemon.

Hey, my mother-in-law has made chestnut dressing. The dressing in my family is mostly made of bread!

I can’t quite picture the hanging by the feet part.

Here’s one of the traditional Thanksgiving/Christmas dishes that I (who am so-not-a-cook) will make for our Thanksgiving. It is from my husband’s Italian side of the family:

“The Peas”
1 package frozen peas
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (or a small jar of spaghetti sauce)
1 chopped onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
olive oil

In a saucepan, brown the garlic in a little bit of olive oil.
Add the peas, onions, and tomato sauce and stir
Cover and cook on low for about an hour

It is easy. Even I can do it! I’m also making the green bean casserole, but everybody knows how to do that.

For Thanksgiving we’re going to my in-laws in Williamsburg, where Amanda and I stayed when we met with Deb Marlowe to plan The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor. Most of my dh’s side of the family will come and I’m happy because both my son and daughter will be there!

Where are you going for Thanksgiving?
What, if anything, will you be cooking?

Don’t forget to enter Janet’s LOL Regency contest! I sent her my entry.

Come to Diane’s Blog . Today I’m announcing my Thanksgiving winner for the website contest, and on Thursday I have a big exciting Christmas contest to announce!

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Elena Greene
12 years ago

That fowl recipe exhausts me just to read it but the peas sound great!

We’re going to the church dinner so my cooking is going to be light, too. Deviled eggs (on request of one of my kids who doesn’t care for turkey) and sweet potato and apple casserole, with maple syrup and crumb topping.

12 years ago

I’ve seen a recipe very like that done on one of the cooking shows. In fact, it was Burt Wolf Travels and Traditions, Thanksgiving in the New World. The folks have decided they’re not doing Thanksgiving this year. I’m going to my sister’s and bringing a Schwan’s pecan pie. 🙂

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Elena and Judy, sounds to me like you will have as easy a Thanksgiving Day as I will!

Sweet potato and apple casserole and Schwan’s pecan pie sound scrumptious.

12 years ago

I’m making rum truffles this year for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a very quick easy recipe I got from Cooking Light. I just got a subscription. They are made with chocolate, cocoa and rum and are only 60 calories. So a nice little light dessert. Although this magazine also told me pumpkin pie has the least amount of calories of any pie. Good to know since I eat it for breakfast on Black Friday. That’s our holiday tradition: pumpkin pie for breakfast on Black Friday and then a drive to Pittsburgh to see the Backyard Brawl (Pitt versus WVU) where I cheer for Pitt, my sister cheers for WVU and my parents cheer for both to make us both happy.

12 years ago

Oh, I totally envy your Thanksgiving at Williamsburg! I’m lucky enough to not be one of the cooks for Thxgiving this year — I plan to show up with locally crafted chocolate truffles to nosh on while we’re waiting for the turkey!

12 years ago

It sounds like a very rich dressing. My mother and grandmothers (Sicilian) use to make a very similar dish but with fresh grown lima beans instead of the peas. Unfortunately, none of my family cares for the frozen kind. I will be making dinner for 6of us since our family has gotten extremely large (my niece has 7 kids). This year I am having it on Sunday instead of Thursday since both my daughter and her husband have to work.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

I’m sure it would taste delicious, but what a lot of work!

I have to work, so I will have to wait until the Sunday after Thanksgiving when my Mom will bring me a lovely selection of leftovers from Thursday’s feast at my Brother and SIL’S !!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Rum truffles sound wonderful, Rachel and Audra.

Audra, we’re not likely to set foot in Historic Williamsburg. We hardly ever get to go there when we visit.

catslady, I think I’d like “The Peas” with lima beans, but I love lima beans, especially fresh ones. It could be the recipe was originally lima beans but somewhere along the line it might have gotten switched to peas.

Louisa, there is something even better about TG leftovers than the meal itself. I don’t know why. I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving day, even if you have to work.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

I bet Williamsburg is beautiful at Thanksgiving! And I agree–leftovers are somehow even better than the first meal. Turkey and dressing sandwiches, yum 🙂

I’m usually only assigned appetizers and desserts for the holiday, so am doing deviled eggs like Elena, pumpkin cream soup, and a chocolate/toffee trifle (first time I’ve tried it so wish me luck!)

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Amanda, the pumpkin cream soup sounds divine!! Good luck on the chocolate/toffee truffle.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

I’m cooking as little as possible this Thanksgiving. I offered to bring soda and I’m cooking some sort of side dish to cater to my vaguely vegetarian state of the moment.

Hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving. You’ve got to love a day that is so unashamed in its gluttony.

12 years ago

Thanksgiving dinner will be at our house with both my daughters and their families coming over. Son has to work. I’ll be doing the whole turkey dinner thing. I enjoy cooking and it is one of my favorite meals.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Way to go, Janet.

Can’t wait for LOL Regency II.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

librarypat, bless you, it will be a busy day for you. Believe it or not (because I am so-not-a-cook), I’ve done the TG meal before and it is exhausting.

But there is nothing better than a family dinner. That alone is enough to be thankful for!

Jane George
12 years ago

That’s SO great your whole family is getting together!!!
Have a wonderful time.

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