An 1890s Thanksgiving in the Kitchen

Everyday Cook-Book

Note: This is an encore post from 2011.

Here’s a traditional roast turkey recipe from the “Every-Day Cook-Book and Family Compendium,” written about 1890 by Miss E. Neill. Be sure your fire is bright and clear and watch out for the gall-bag.


In choosing poultry, the best way to determine whether it is young, is to try the skin under the leg or wing; if it is easily broken, it is young; or, turn the wing backwards; if the joint yields readily, it is tender; a fat fowl is best for any purpose.

After a chicken or fowl is killed, plunge it into a pot of scalding hot water; then pluck off the feathers, taking care not to tear the skin; when it is picked clean, roll up a sheet of white wrapping paper, set fire to it, singe off all the hairs. Poultry should be carefully picked, and nicely singed.

If a fowl is fresh killed, the vent will be close, and the flesh have a pleasant smell.


      Carefully pluck the bird, singe it with white paper, and wipe it thoroughly with a cloth; draw it, preserve the liver and gizzard, and be particular not to break the gall-bag, as no washing will remove the bitter taste it imparts where it once touches. Wash it inside well, and wipe it thoroughly with a dry cloth; the outside merely requires wiping nicely.

Cut off the neck close to the back, but leave enough of the crop-skin to turn over; break the leg-bones close below the knee; draw out the strings from the thighs, and flatten the breastbone to make it look plump. Have ready your dressing of bread-crumbs, mixed with butter, pepper, salt, thyme or sweet marjoram; fill the breast with this, and sew the neck over to the back. Be particular that the turkey is firmly trussed. Dredge it lightly with flour, and put a piece of butter into the basting-ladle; as the butter melts, baste the bird with it. When of a nice brown and well-frothed, serve with a tureen of good brown gravy and one of bread sauce. The liver should be put under one pinion, and the gizzard under the other. Fried sausages are a favorite addition to roast turkey; they make a pretty garnish, besides adding much to the flavor. When these are not at hand, a few force-meat balls should be placed round the dish as a garnish. Turkey may also be stuffed with sausage-meat, and a chestnut force-meat with the same sauce is, by many persons, much esteemed as an accompaniment to this favorite dish.

SECOND RECIPE–After drawing and cleansing the turkey, prepare a dressing of chopped sausage and bread-crumbs, mixing in butter, pepper, salt and thyme to flavor. Fill the craw and the body of the turkey with this, and sew up carefully. Dredge with flour and put in the oven to roast, basting freely first with butter and water, then with the gravy from the pan. The time it takes to roast will depend both on the age and the weight of the turkey. If you have a good fire, you will be safe to allow ten minutes or so to the pound. Roast to a fine brown, and serve with the chopped giblets, which should be well stewed; add cranberry sauce.


Hen turkeys are the best for boiling. They are the whitest, and if nicely kept, tenderest. Of course the sinews must be drawn, and they ought to he trussed with the legs out, so as to be easily carved. Take care to clean the animal well after it has been singed. Place the fowl in a sufficiently large pot with clean water sufficient to cover it, and little more; let the fire be a clear one, but not too fierce, as the slower the turkey boils the plumper it will be. Skim carefully and constantly, and simmer for two hours and a half in the case of a large fowl, and two hours for a smaller beast, and from an hour and ten to forty minutes for still smaller turkeys. Some people boil their turkeys in a floured cloth. I don’t; the whiteness being mostly in the animal itself. My stuffing for a boiled turkey is thought good. I prepare it of crumbs of stale bread, with a little marrow or butter, some finely-shred parsley, and two dozen of small oysters, minus their beards, of course, and neatly trimmed. Stuff with this and a little chopped ham in addition, if desired.


Have a bright, clear, and steady fire for roasting poultry; prepare it as directed; spit it, put a pint of hot water in the dripping-pan, add to it a small tablespoonful of salt, and a small teaspoonful of pepper, baste frequently, and let it roast quickly, without scorching; when nearly done, put a piece of butter the size of a large egg to the water in the pan; when it melts, baste with it, dredge a little flour over, baste again, and let it finish; half an hour will roast a full grown chicken, if the fire is right. When done take it up, let the giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) boil tender, and chop them very fine, and put them in the gravy; add a tablespoonful of browned flour and a bit of butter, stir it over the fire for a few minutes, then serve in a gravy tureen. Or put the giblets in the pan and let them roast.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1890, Food and Drink, From the Stacks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to An 1890s Thanksgiving in the Kitchen

  1. Pingback: 1890s Thanksgiving Recipes & Cookbook | Wonderland1981 - The Wonderland Murders

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