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Let’s Party Like it’s 1621: 10 Recipes [Probably] Served at the First Thanksgiving

Let’s Party Like it’s 1621: 10 Recipes [Probably] Served at the First Thanksgiving

Hey everyone! I have a confession: When I was little, I wanted to be a Pilgrim when I grew up.

This is 100% true… right mom? I know you’re reading this. 😉

Pilgrims know how to party!

It only took one trip to Plimoth Plantation to make this decision …maybe it was the popped corn-on-the-cob in the Wampanoag village, or the fresh, whole rabbit roasting over the hearth in one of the pilgrim cottages, but there was something about cooking over a real fire and living simply that just seemed like the right fit.

Fast-forward 20 years …and… I’m not a Pilgrim.

But cooking on a fire, and discovering cultures and history through recipes, are still high on my to-do list.

I’m on a mission to discover the recipes and ingredients that may have actually been served at the first Thanksgiving table. As it turns out, some of the common dishes (I’m looking at you, potatoes!) are historically inaccurate.

I’m all about authentic experiences, so this Thanksgiving, let’s party like it’s 1621!

These 10 recipes originated in New England (primarily MA and RI), include ingredients and cooking methods that were available to the Pilgrims in the early 1600’s, and may have actually been served at the first Thanksgiving.

Each dish would have been cooked over an open fire by the Pilgrims — if you’re feeling particularly authentic, light up a fire and give them a try!

This is not how the pilgrims did it.

 

1. Boiled Cornbread (Puttuckqunnege)

When baking wasn’t as simple as it is now, Native Americans would make boiled quick-breads, similar to dumplings. Corn, cranberries, and sunflower seeds were abundant in the early 1600’s, and maple syrup was a common sweetener. These ingredients are mixed together and boiled for an age-old version of New England cornbread.

Print Recipe
Boiled Cornbread (Puttuckqunnege)
When baking wasn't as simple as it is now, Native Americans would make boiled quick-breads, similar to dumplings. Corn, cranberries, and sunflower seeds were abundant in the early 1600's, and maple syrup was a common sweetener. These ingredients are mixed together and boiled for an age-old version of New England cornbread.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 quart Slightly boiling water
  • 1/2 cup Corse cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Corn flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup Dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Crushed sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. Maple syrup (optional)
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 quart Slightly boiling water
  • 1/2 cup Corse cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Corn flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup Dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Crushed sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. Maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except the water in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. After mixing, slowly add the slightly-boiling water, 1/4 cup at a time.
  3. When the mix is thick enough to be sticky (after about 3/4 cups of water), shape into round patties about 2-3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Carefully drop each patty into the slightly boiling water, making sure they do not stick to the bottom.
  5. Remove the corn breads when they begin to float. About 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes

This recipe was adapted from Many Hoops.

 

2. Squash with Cranberries (Sassamanesh)

Cranberries were abundant in the 1600’s growing around the sandy soils and shallow bogs of southern New England. The Wampanoag cultivate cranberries, which were a staple in their diet along with other crops (beans, corn, squash..) that are still popular today.  Because these ingredients are available and harvested during the fall, it’s very possible that this recipe was whipped up for the first Thanksgiving.

 

Print Recipe
Squash with Cranberries (Sassamanesh)
Cranberries were abundant in the 1600's growing around the sandy soils and shallow bogs of southern New England. The Wampanoag cultivate cranberries, which were a staple in their diet along with other crops (beans, corn, squash..) that are still popular today.  Because these ingredients are available and harvested during the fall, it's very possible that this recipe was whipped up for the first Thanksgiving.
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1/3 cup Maple syrup
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1/3 cup Maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the squash and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently until the squash is almost tender.
  3. Add cranberries and juice. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender. About 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in maple syrup and serve.
Recipe Notes

This recipe was adapted from http://www.manyhoops.com/wampanoag-food-and-recipes_1.html.

 

3. Indigenous New England Clam Chowder

As it turns out, potatoes and cream were not added to New England clam chowder until the 1920’s, and clam chowder was originally a dish of the indigenous people of New England. This traditional Wampanoag Chowder is thickened with corn, and includes beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and onions in addition to clams and broth.

Print Recipe
Indigenous New England Clam Chowder
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil
  • 1 Large Onion chopped
  • 1.5 cups Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes) cut into 1/2"-1" pieces
  • 1 Smoked Ham Hock
  • 3 cups Broth (clam, fish, vegetable, or chicken broth)
  • 1 cup White Beans canned, or pre-cooked
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup Clams chopped
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil
  • 1 Large Onion chopped
  • 1.5 cups Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes) cut into 1/2"-1" pieces
  • 1 Smoked Ham Hock
  • 3 cups Broth (clam, fish, vegetable, or chicken broth)
  • 1 cup White Beans canned, or pre-cooked
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup Clams chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the Jerusalem Artichokes, Onions and ham hocks.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat until the Onions are clear and the Jerusalem artichokes are browned, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the broth, beans, bay leaf, salt and cornmeal, and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the artichokes are tender and the chowder is thickened.
  6. Add the clams, and let simmer for an additional 2 minutes.

 

4. Pilgrim Turkey Stew

Large wild turkeys would have been stewed rather than roasted whole as we do today, as the meat was tougher. Smaller, more tender birds would have been spit-roasted over an open fire.  This recipes differs from the Native American Turkey Stew in the use of traditional European herbs, and using imported ingredients, such as sugar.

Print Recipe
Pilgrim Turkey Stew
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds turkey thighs and legs dark meat works best, but any turkey meat will work.
  • 1 Large Onion sliced into 1/4-inch rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Each: Sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, savory
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds turkey thighs and legs dark meat works best, but any turkey meat will work.
  • 1 Large Onion sliced into 1/4-inch rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Each: Sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, savory
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Place turkey in a large pot.
  2. Cover with cold water and add the salt.
  3. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. After an hour, remove the turkey and set aside to cool.
  6. Bring the broth to a boil.
  7. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half. About an hour.
  8. When the broth is reduced, add the remaining ingredients.
  9. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft.
  10. While the broth is simmering, cut the cooled turkey into bit-sized pieces.
  11. Add the meat back into the broth and simmer for one minute to warm the turkey.

 

5. Wampanoag Turkey Stew (Sobaheg)

Sobaheg, as it is called by the Wampanoags, is a stew thickened with corn meal. This Sobaheg recipe uses turkey on the bone, and other native ingredients, including the “three sisters”: corn, beans and squash. These vegetables were commonly grown together by Native Americans using companion farming and almost certainly would have been present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Print Recipe
Wampanoag Turkey Stew (Sobaheg)
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry white beans
  • 1 cup coarse hominy grits
  • 1 pound turkey meat, on the bone, with skin
  • 12 cups Water
  • 1 cup green beans, cut in 1" sections
  • 1.5 cups butternut squash, cut in 1" cubes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, ground
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry white beans
  • 1 cup coarse hominy grits
  • 1 pound turkey meat, on the bone, with skin
  • 12 cups Water
  • 1 cup green beans, cut in 1" sections
  • 1.5 cups butternut squash, cut in 1" cubes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, ground
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
Instructions
  1. Add dried beans, grits, turkey, spices and water to a large pot.
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer on low for 2 1/2 hours. Stirring occasionally.
  3. When dried beans are tender, break up turkey meat into bite-sized pieces, removing skin and bones.
  4. Add green beans and squash, and simmer until tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add ground sunflower seeds and stir to thicken.
Recipe Notes

This recipe has been adapted from the original Plimoth Plantation recipe

 

6. Stewed Pumpkin (“pompions”)

This recipe is adapted from the original 1672 recipe. Pumpkins were cultivated by the Native Americans and the Pilgrims in the New World. When other crops failed, the pumpkin kept food on the table for the Pilgrims throughout the winter. Some historical accounts tout the pumpkin as the reason the pilgrims were able to survive the harsh New England winters in the early years of Plymouth colony.

Print Recipe
Stewed Pumpkin
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 10" Sugar pumpkin diced.
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. Each: Ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 10" Sugar pumpkin diced.
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. Each: Ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Add pumpkin to a pot. Cover and heat over low-heat for an hour.
  2. When Pumpkin is cooked down and soft, add remaining ingredients and stir until the butter melts.
  3. Cook, covered, on low heat an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The original 1672 recipe reads as follows:

“The Ancient New England Standing Dish But 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, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh: It provokes Urin extremely and is very windy.”

John Josselyn, New-Englands Rarities Discovered (1672)

 

7. Succotash (Msickquatash)

Succotash was hailed as a year-round staple by Native Americans in New England, who later introduced their recipe to the colonists. There are infinite variations of Succotach – ranging from stew-like to salad-like concoctions, but corn and beans remain consistent elements in all recipes. These ingredients were available year-round; as other foods were harvested throughout the year, the dish evolved and changed as well.

Print Recipe
Succotash (Msickquatash)
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 Slices Bacon, Diced
  • 1 Tbsp. Cooking Oil
  • 1/2 C. Diced Onions
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. green beans cut in 1" sections
  • 1 C. Diced Butternut or Acorn Squash
  • 1 C. Chicken or Clam Broth
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut from 4 ears of uncooked corn
  • 1/2 C. Dried Cranberries (unsweetened)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained.
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 C. Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/2 C. Diced Clams with juice 1/2 cup = about 1 can diced clams
  • 1/4 C. Fresh chopped parsley
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 Slices Bacon, Diced
  • 1 Tbsp. Cooking Oil
  • 1/2 C. Diced Onions
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. green beans cut in 1" sections
  • 1 C. Diced Butternut or Acorn Squash
  • 1 C. Chicken or Clam Broth
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut from 4 ears of uncooked corn
  • 1/2 C. Dried Cranberries (unsweetened)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained.
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 C. Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/2 C. Diced Clams with juice 1/2 cup = about 1 can diced clams
  • 1/4 C. Fresh chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. In a deep pan over medium-low heat, add the bacon, squash, green beans, onions and garlic.
  2. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and onions are clear, and most of the bacon fat has rendered out. About 15 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the broth, pepper, corn, cranberries and kidney beans. Bring to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Uncover and add the vinegar, clams with juice, parsley, and sunflower seeds. Simmer for 1 minute to warm through and combine. Most of the broth will have cooked off. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe Notes

8. Maple Cranberry Porridge (Nausamp)

Nausamp is the Wampanoag term for porridge or stew, thickened with corn. This dessert version of Nausamp is made with other native New England crops, including maple, sunflower seeds, and cranberries.

 

Print Recipe
Cranberry Maple Porridge (Nassaump)
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1.5 C. Corse cornmeal
  • 2.5 C. Water
  • 1 C. cranberries fresh, frozen or craisins
  • 1/3 C. Real Maple Syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. Sunflower Seeds
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1.5 C. Corse cornmeal
  • 2.5 C. Water
  • 1 C. cranberries fresh, frozen or craisins
  • 1/3 C. Real Maple Syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. Sunflower Seeds
Instructions
  1. Simmer the water, cornmeal and cranberries until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  2. Add the syrup and sunflower seeds and stir until warmed through, then remove from the heat and serve.
Recipe Notes

This recipe was adapted from Many Hoops.

 

9. Stewed Tudor-style Mussels

The pilgrims would have found plenty of mussels when they landed on the south shore of Massachusetts, and Cape Cod. They were familiar with Mussels from cooking in England and likely harvested the mussels to eat, as did the native Wampanoags. This recipe was adapted from an original Tudor cookbook from the late 1500’s.

 

Print Recipe
Stewed Mussels
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 pounds Mussels
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 C. Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 C. red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. Water
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 pounds Mussels
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 C. Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 C. red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. Water
Instructions
  1. Clean the Mussels.
  2. Add all ingredients except the mussels to a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add the mussels and reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all or most of the mussels have opened. Discard any that did not open.
  5. Do not over cook.
  6. Serve the mussels with the broth, and crusty, toasted, hearty bread.
Recipe Notes

This recipe was adapted from the 1597 book by Thomas Dawson, The Second Part of the Good Huswives Jewell.

 

10. Johnny Cakes

Johnny Cakes are a Rhode Island staple, and likely got their beginnings during the time of the Pilgrims who needed portable food for long journeys between settlements in the New World. These journey-cakes were the perfect snack for a journey since they kept well for a long time and were packed with energy.

 

Print Recipe
Johnny Cakes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 C. cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 C. boiling water
  • 3-4 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. Bacon grease or butter
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 C. cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 C. boiling water
  • 3-4 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. Bacon grease or butter
Instructions
  1. Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt in a large bowl until well blended.
  2. Pour in the boiling water and mix well.
  3. Add the milk until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter.
  4. Heat bacon grease in a skillet and drop the batter in 2 Tbsp at a time.
  5. Cook until golden on each side, filling halfway thorough. This should take about 5 minutes per side.
  6. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

 

If you want to take your authentic thanksgiving one step further, set the table with only knives and spoons – no forks! According the the Food Historian of Plymouth Plantation, Forks weren’t common in America until the 1700’s.

Do you have any other historical thanksgiving fun-facts? Share in the comments below. 🙂

 

Thanks for reading! If you like recipes, cocktails and travel, follow us on the social medias: Facebook / Pinterest / Twitter / Instagram, and subscribe to my newsletter to take a trip around the world in 5 recipes.

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