In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26 of that year as a national day of thanksgiving to recognize the role of providence in creating the new United States and the new federal Constitution.  Thanksgiving as a celebration of surviving the first year of the Plymouth Colony had been celebrated in Massachusetts since the autumn of 1621. The Plymouth thanksgiving celebration was not an annual event; rather, residents of Plymouth and the other colonies held days of thanksgiving and fasting over the years, at different times of year for a variety of reasons.

In 1789, Representative Elias Boudinot from New Jersey presented a resolution requesting that Congress persuade President Washington to declare a thanksgiving observance in honor of the creation of the new United States Constitution. Congress agreed and passed the resolution creating a joint committee to make their request to the president.  Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks.

The classic Thanksgiving menu of turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and root vegetables is based on New England fall harvests. In the South, Corn, sweet potatoes, and pork provided the main ingredients in Thanksgiving feasts. Below are a few ideas to revolutionize your celebration…

Roast Rack of Venison

A rack of venison weighs 6 to 8 pounds. Bring the meat to room temperature before roasting. Place in a roasting pan, rub generously with butter, or cover with a piece of salt pork, secured with string. If you use butter, baste occasionally during the roasting period. Place in a preheated 325° oven and roast 18 minutes per pound. Do not overcook. Venison should be rare, not well done. Let stand on a warm platter before carving to allow the juices to settle. Salt and pepper to taste. Puréed chestnuts, potatoes, squash, or wild rice are all excellent accompaniments.

Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing

Potato Stuffing

  • 2 cups hot mashed potatoes 
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sage 
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves 
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley 

Combine mashed potatoes with all remaining ingredients. Singe and remove all pinfeathers from an 8- to 9-pound goose. Rub the cavity and skin with a cut lemon and salt. Stuff and truss the goose.

Place on a rack in a roasting pan (breast side up), toss a cut clove of garlic and a stalk of celery with leaves into the pan, and roast in a preheated 350° oven for 18 to 20 minutes per pound. Prick the skin, around the wings and legs, with a fork to release fat. Baste occasionally with pan drippings.

When goose is tender and the skin brown and crisp, place on a heated platter and garnish with watercress. Serve with applesauce.

Indian Pudding

  • 1/4 cup corn meal 
  • 2 cups hot milk 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup molasses 
  • 1 cup cold milk 
  • Whipped cream 
  • Nutmeg

Stir corn meal, a little at a time, into the hot milk and cook over low heat or in the top of a double boiler, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat. Mix together sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon, then stir into the corn-meal mixture. Add molasses and cold milk, mixing thoroughly. Pour into a 1-quart casserole and bake in a preheated 275° oven for 2 hours. Serve warm with whipped cream and a light sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

Plum Pudding

  • 3 cups fine bread crumbs, one day old 
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup currants 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup candied lemon peel, chopped 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/4 cup candied citron, chopped
  •  2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 
  • 1/4 cup dates, chopped 
  • 3/4 cup milk, scalded 
  • 1/2 cup tart apples, chopped 
  • 6 eggs, well beaten 
  • 1/4 cup rum, brandy, or cider 
  • 1/3 pound suet, ground 

Combine crumbs with salt, spices, and brown sugar. Stir in the scalded milk and cool. Mix in eggs and suet, then add all the fruits and rum, brandy, or cider. Work mixture with your hands to distribute fruit evenly. Place in a greased 2-quart mold. Seal securely with lid or foil and stand on a rack in the bottom of a kettle. Add enough boiling water to cover the mold halfway. Cover kettle tightly and steam over a low heat for 5 to 6 hours. Add more boiling water when necessary. Serve warm with Hard Sauce.

Mincemeat Pie

  • 2 pounds lean beef, ground 
  • 1 pound suet, ground 
  • 2 pounds sugar 
  • 5 pounds tart apples (pared, cored, and chopped)
  •  2 pounds muscat raisins 
  • 1 pound currants 
  • 1 pound sultana raisins 
  • 1/2 pound citron, chopped 
  • 1/2 pound orange peel, chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon allspice 
  • 1 teaspoon mace 
  • 1 quart boiled cider (about) 
  • Brandy 
  • Pastry for a 2-crust pie

Mix beef, suet, sugar, fruit, salt, spices, and cider in a large kettle. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, for 2 hours. Add cider if needed. Stir in brandy to taste. Pack into sterilized 1-quart jars, seal securely, store in a cool place, and allow to mellow at least 1 month before using. Makes 5 jars. 

To make the pie: Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Spoon in enough mincemeat to fill the pan and cover with remaining pastry, rolled thin. Seal securely and slash top in several places so steam can escape. Bake in a preheated 450° oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm. 

And, of course the most important part of the traditional Thanksgiving is ….


  • 40.0 gal Unpasturized Apple juice or cider
  • 3.0 lb Brown Sugar
  • 4 oz Cinnamon
  • 2 oz Whole Cloves
  • Nottingham Ale yeast

Mix all these ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved. Place this mixture in a clean VENTED container and allow to ferment for 20 days. Carefully decant mixture, leaving the strube that settles on the bottom of the vessel, into a new clean container and allow to ferment an additional 14 days then bottle in tightly corked bottles. After another 10 days, the cider is ready to drink but it can be enjoyed for up to a year. (ABV ~15%)

Apple Jack

Take one to ten gallons of good hard cider (see above) and place in a soft sided sealed container (wooden barrel or modern plastic jug). FREEZE this solution.

Carefully chip away the ice revealing the Apple Jack below (typically 60-80 proof).

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Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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